Foundations of Human Performance
Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Prevention
When you hear “breast cancer” what comes to your mind? Typically the word cancer makes you think the loss of hair, weight, and motivation to keep going, or even death. But did you know there are physical ways to not only help you overcome breast cancer, but to even prevent breast cancer. For those who don’t know what breast cancer is it’s a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the either breast; a malignant tumor is cancer cells that surround your tissues and spread to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs mainly in women, but that doesn’t mean men can’t get it either (1).
A little insight about Breast Cancer, this cancer is the second leading cancer death among women in the United States. In 2009 more than 192,000 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and about 40,000 died from the disease. Estimation in 2006 says that there were more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
When you think of physical activity, what comes to your mind? Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles; such movement results in an expenditure of energy. Physical activity is a critical component of energy balance, a term used to describe how weight, diet, and physical activity influence health, including cancer risk (2).
Studies show that breast cancer occurs more in women who are inactive more than those who are regularly active. High levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity during adolescence are also a prevention of breast cancer. Existing evidence shows a decreasing risk of breast cancer as the frequency and duration of physical activity increase. Most studies suggest that 30 minutes per day of moderate- to high-intensity physical activity is associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk. Physical activity prevents tumors by lowering hormone levels, mainly in premenopausal women. Premenopausal means the natural shift from more or less regular cycles of ovulation and menstruation to a more permanent infertility. Also physical activity lowers levels of insulin like growth factors, and improves response assisting with weight maintenance avoiding excess body fat and high body mass. Premenopausal usually happens in women in their 40’s but it could start as early as their 30’s (3).
Insulin can prevent the growth effect on breast cancer cells. It’s believed to be an important mechanism associated with the development of breast cancer. Insulin is an enhancement tumor development by stimulating cells to multiply and inhibits cells from dying. Insulin can be modified by lifestyle and pharmacologic interventions (1).
About 25 percent of breast cancer survivors will have a second reoccurrence (4), but for those who are breast cancer survivors and have not had a reoccurrence are maintaining to be in physical activity still will help. Since they were affected with cancer to begin with, the cancer treatment often results in a decrease in physical activity and deconditioning associated with disuse of muscles. Reviews say that cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength among those survivors helps with reducing fatigue and improving their mood and their quality of life. Also, for those who are physical after survival have a higher psychosocial outcome, and have less cancer-related symptoms.
Some moderate activities doctors request are ones like walking, biking, and swimming. Also, yard work or even house cleaning. The recommended minutes of physical activity per day is about 30. Those who are survivors learn many ways to interact physical activities into their daily lives. Parking further away, or instead of elevators and escalators they use the stairs (4). Even though that doesn’t seem like much, the more physical you are the more it helps you slowly but surely.
A common question for those who have breast cancer is “Should I exercise during cancer treatment and recovery?” The answer is yes! Doctors suggest that it is safe to do during cancer treatment. It improves multiple aspects on their life. Not only does it improve fatigue and anxiety. It also helps heart and blood vessel fitness (5). While people are getting chemotherapy or radiation can exercise, just at a lower intensity and slowly build up. It will truly help in the long run. They don’t have to do it alone either, a family member or friend, or even dog if you have one could be by your side the entire time if you ask.
About 32 percent of breast cancer survivors are engaged in physical activity. Also, there are thoughts about breast cancer in certain ethnicities, but no matter what your ethnical background is, if you are doing at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activities each day, it could prevent cancer from coming back (5).
No, physical activity is not completely a cancer demolisher but with the research I have found it will help you in the long run. Suggestions show that those who are physical are not only healthier, but psychological stronger.
(1)Irwin, M. L., George, S. M., & Matthews, C. E. (2010). Physical activity and breast cancer: Prevention, survival, and mechanisms. Retrieved from
(2)Weiss, M. (2012, September 17). Retrieved from
(3)National Cancer Institue. (2009, July 22). National cancer institute fact sheet. Retrieved from
(4)Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010, sept 16). Perimenopause. Retrieved from
(5)American Cancer Society, I. (2012). Retrieved from