Exercise Reduces Your Cancer Risk

Many people view exercise as a tool for weight loss, muscle building, and improving cardiovascular health, but it does much more than that. Exercise is like a whole-body health tonic.

It reduces your risk of many different chronic diseases including – cancer. For starters, exercise drives your insulin levels down, and controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risk. It’s also been suggested that apoptosis (programmed cell death) is triggered by exercise, causing cancer cells to die.

Exercise also improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at defending itself against infections and diseases like cancer.

Further, a study published in the British Medical Journal noted that hundreds of studies link physical activity in reducing cancer risk by several biological functions that may directly influence this risk.

These effects include changes in:


Cardiovascular capacity Energy balance
Pulmonary capacity Immune function
Bowel motility Antioxidant defense
Hormone levels DNA repair


Five Hours of Exercise a Week Lowers Your Breast Cancer Risk

In previously inactive post-menopausal women, a one-year “prescription” to exercise moderately to vigorously for 300 minutes a week leads to greater reductions in body fat than exercising for 150 minutes a week.

Obesity exposes women to higher estrogen levels because estrogen is both produced and stored in fat tissue. Women carrying excess body fat therefore have more estrogen and leptin, which can lead to insulin resistance and the development of more fat tissue.

This produces even more estrogen — it’s a vicious cycle that may raise the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer. Reducing body fat, and with it estrogen levels, is one more way that physical activity may lower cancer risk.

We had learned that estrogen dominant is the cause for breast cancer and estrogen is produce by fat cell. However xeno-estrogen (estrogen from environmental toxin that act like estrogen) is one of the main source of estrogen dominant.

“A possible association between physical activity and post-menopausal breast cancer risk is supported by more than 100 epidemiologic studies, with strong biologic rationale supporting fat loss as an important (though not the only) mediator of this association.

…Our findings of a dose-response effect of exercise on total fat mass and several other adiposity measures, including abdominal fat, especially in obese women, provide a basis for encouraging post-menopausal women to exercise at least 300 minutes/week, longer than the minimum recommended for cancer prevention.”

Past Research Suggests Exercise Might Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer by 30 to 40 Percent

The new study is only the latest showing regular physical activity drives down your cancer risk. In a review of published epidemiologic studies on physical activity and the risk of developing cancer, it’s noted:4

“With regard to breast cancer, there is reasonably clear evidence that physically active women have about a 20-30% reduction in risk, compared with inactive women.

It also appears that 30-60 min [a day] of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity is needed to decrease the risk of breast cancer, and that there is likely a dose-response relation.”

Two other studies echoed this finding:

  • Women who were active at home during the day, engaging in heavy lifting or carrying rather than mostly sitting, had a 38 percent reduced risk of invasive breast cancer
  • Strenuous activity in teens and moderate activity after menopause also lead to a reduction in breast cancer risk.
  • A systematic review of seven cohort studies and 14 case-control studies also found that physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer, particularly in post-menopausal women

What Other Types of Cancer Does Exercise Benefit?

It’s not only breast cancer that’s prevented by exercise. According to the National Cancer Institute:

“There is convincing evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast. Several studies also have reported links between physical activity and a reduced risk of cancers of the prostate, lung, and lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).”

One study revealed that physically active men and women have about a 30-40 percent reduction in the risk of developing colon cancer compared with inactive persons, for instance. Physical activity also appears to lower the risk of pancreatic cancer by about 11 percent.

Previous animal research suggests regular exercise may be the key to significantly reduce your chances of developing liver cancer, which is among the most common types of cancer.

More recently, research published in the journal JAMA Oncology found that being fit in middle age cut men’s risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer by 55 percent and lowered the risk of bowel cancer by 44 percent.

And yet another study revealed that men who regularly worked out with weights and had the highest muscle strength were between 30 percent and 40 percent less likely to die from cancer.

Equally impressive were the results from a Finnish study, which found men who exercised intensely for 30 minutes a day had a 50 percent lower risk of dying prematurely from cancer. Taken together, the research speaks loud and clear that staying active is a key element to avoiding cancer throughout your lifetime.

Exercise Should Be a Standard of Care for Cancer Patients

Exercise can not only help slash your risk of cancer, it also helps cancer patients recuperate faster and diminishes your risk of cancer recurrence. A report issued by the British organization Macmillan Cancer Support in 2012 argued that exercise really should be part of standard cancer care.

It recommended that all patients getting cancer treatment should be told to engage in moderate-intensity exercise for two and a half hours every week, stating that the advice to rest and take it easy after treatment is an outdated view. According to Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support:

“Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the grueling ordeal of treatment all over again…”

For example, previous research has shown that breast and colon cancer patients who exercise regularly have half the recurrence rate than non-exercisers. High levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in middle age also helped men survive cancer, reducing their risk of dying from lung, bowel, and prostate cancer by nearly one-third (32 percent).  Macmillan Cancer Support also notes that exercise can help you to mitigate some of the common side effects of conventional cancer treatment, including:

Reduce fatigue and improve your energy levels Manage stress, anxiety, low mood, or depression Improve bone health
Improve heart health (some chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy can cause heart problems later in life) Build muscle strength, relieve pain, and improve range of movement Maintain a healthy weight
Sleep better Improve your appetite