Health Watch -- Exercise and Breast Cancer

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

You're not entirely powerless to lower your breast cancer risk.

There's still a lot we don't know about cancer. And there's not a lot you can do to control your risk for breast cancer. You can't control things like your age, genetics or family history, which are all factors. But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say there's something you can do to help protect yourself against breast cancer: Exercise.

A regular exercise routine consisting of activities like brisk walking, swimming or bicycling may help lower your cancer risk. Exercise may protect you by lowering your body weight. Doctors believe that fatty tissue produces hormones and growth factors that may promote tumor growth, so reducing the amount of body fat you have may reduce your cancer risk.

Dr. Susan Hoover, a UT Southwestern cancer specialist, says that exercise is one thing you can modify about your life to help you lower your cancer risk, even if you can't affect many of the other risk factors. Besides exercise, you can lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption.

Even if you can't control whether or not you get breast cancer, you have some control over when it's detected. An annual mammogram for women over the age of 40 can help detect the disease in its earliest stages when it's most treatable.