Harvard Women's Health Watch

Staying fit might lower your odds of getting breast cancer

Whether you walk, dance, or Zumba, doing it every day might reduce your risk of getting breast cancer, according to a study published online June 25 in the journal Cancer. According to the study's authors, 10 to 19 hours a week (about two hours a day) of exercise had the greatest benefit. Women who worked out that much had a breast cancer risk about 30% lower than that of inactive women. The intensity of the workout didn't matter in this study. Age also didn't seem to matter. Physical activity reduced breast cancer risk in women both during their reproductive years and after menopause. What did make a difference in the study was the women's weight—especially after menopause. Gaining a significant amount of weight essentially wiped out the benefits of exercise on breast cancer risk in older women. Because this study didn't assign women to different interventions (exercising vs. staying sedentary)—it merely asked women about their exercise habits—it couldn't confirm that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. What this study does do is give women of every age another reason to lace up their sneakers and get moving. Even if you have to squeeze 10-minute bursts of exercise into your day, try to get moving for a total of 30 to 60 minutes on most, if not all days of the week.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »