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Physical Activity, Diet & Breast Cancer
According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. While family history and age are major risk factors affecting a woman’s chances of developing this disease, research has shown that body weight, physical activity and diet can also play an important role in prevention.
Research has shown that being overweight or obese can increase the chances for developing breast cancer, particularly in post-menopausal women. Regular physical activity and a healthy diet can help a person maintain a normal body weight, and several studies have shown that women who participate in physical activity are at a decreased risk for developing breast cancer.1, 2 Even when accounting for the effect of weight loss, women who regularly exercise are still at a decreased risk for developing breast cancer. The greatest benefit seems to come from moderate to vigorous aerobic type exercises.
Vitamin and mineral intake have also been found to influence risk of breast cancer. Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for our bodies, and recent research shows that they may also play a role in breast cancer prevention.3 Another study suggests that folate consumption actually could increase the chances for breast cancer, but no dose-response relationship was observed. 4 Alcohol intake of as little as 3 to 6 drinks per week was observed to increase the risk for breast cancer as well. However, the most consistent measure was the cumulative amount of alcohol consumed throughout life. When total amount was controlled, binge drinking, and not frequency of drinking, was associated with a greater risk for breast cancer.5