Most research on exercise and breast cancer risk suggests that doing regular, moderate, aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer after menopause. But the affect of exercise on breast cancer risk in younger women has been less clear.
A large study looked at the relationship between breast cancer risk in premenopausal women and exercise starting at age 12. The researchers found that the more time a woman exercised, the more her breast cancer risk went down. They also found that regular exercise between ages 12 and 22 contributed the most to the reduction in risk. It didn't matter what type of exercise the girls and women did -- the exercise just needed to be moderately intense:
- 3.25 hours of running per week
- 13 hours of walking per week
Either type of exercise lowered breast cancer risk by 23%.
While you can't control some of the things that affect breast cancer risk, such as your genes, you can make a number of diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices that can lower your risk of breast cancer. It's ideal if you can start making these choices -- including regular exercise -- in childhood. But if you didn't then, it's never too late to start. Whatever your age, do all that you can to keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be. And while you're at it, coach your daughters, nieces, and the other girls and young women in your life to make healthy choices today that can lower their risk of breast cancer tomorrow.