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Protecting Yourself Against Breast Cancer

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Updated September 11, 2013

If you're a woman you probably can't get through a single day without dealing with breast cancer. For some it's because they know a breast cancer survivor or, perhaps, one who didn't survive. For others it's because they have breast cancer themselves or fear getting it. Getting regular checkups and performing monthly self-exams are great ways to stop cancer in it's tracks, but don't forget about exercise.

Can You Prevent Breast Cancer?

You already know that exercise helps reduce your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also helps you lose weight, sleep better and feel better. But, what about the effect of exercise on breast cancer? While it's not officially proven to reduce the risk of breast cancer, some studies show that exercise can offer some protection. Some studies suggest that exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and experts believe this is because exercise lowers a woman's ongoing exposure to estrogen, which is believed to contribute to cancer growth.

The interesting thing is that exercise and weight control may work together in preventing breast cancer. Dr. Anne McTiernan, an internist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, found that the women in her study who exercised the most had a 22% decreased risk of breast cancer.

While some studies have found a positive relationship between exercise and breast cancer, others have found no relationship at all. Either way, exercise is important for staying healthy and, when it comes to recovering from breast cancer, that's when exercise really becomes important.

Can you Exercise if You're Recovering from Breast Cancer?

If you're recovering from breast cancer, first of all congratulations! Second of all, you might be wondering what you can do to speed your recovery. Past studies have shown that exercise can be an effective treatment for cancer patients. About's Sports Medicine Guide, Elizabeth Quinn notes in her article, Exercise as Cancer Treatment, "...exercise had a positive effect on physical and psychological functioning of cancer patients while in treatment." Cancer patients who exercised experienced fat loss, a decrease in nausea and fatigue, higher self-esteem and better quality of life.

After checking with your doctor first, consider taking a page from Jill Forrest's book. Jill Forrest, a breast cancer survivor, started Better Than Before Fitness, Ltd. which has created the first rehabilitative/exercise video for breast cancer survivors. The video takes you through the first day after surgery to six weeks later and all participants are breast cancer survivors. Visit their website for information about the video and to find answers to your questions about exercise.

Whatever exercise you choose, remember that moving your body can help heal both your mind and your body.

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