Can Exercise Lower Breast Cancer Risk | Dennis Idowu MD | PIH Health

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Published on October 21, 2021

Can Exercise Lower Breast Cancer Risk?

Dennis Idowu MD explains how exercise can help

Photo of woman tying exercise shoeIt is widely known that spending large amounts of your day being inactive can increase your risk of developing chronic health conditions. Extensive research has also shown that increasing physical activity levels can lower your risk for conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But did you know that it may also lower your risk for breast cancer?

“Exercise affects the body in many positive ways,” says Dr. Idowu, PIH Health OB/GYN. “For one, it helps you get down to or maintain a healthier weight, when combined with a healthy eating plan. This helps prevent serious health conditions such as breast cancer, in addition to making you feel and look better.”


Research shows that fat loss is a major factor in reducing the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer. One study showed about a 20% lower risk of breast cancer in study participants who exercised the most compared to those who exercised the least, regardless of family history. Even women at a greater risk for breast cancer were shown to benefit from increased physical activity. These findings suggest that even a modest level of physical activity is associated with reduced breast cancer risk.

There are several reasons why exercise may help lower the risk of developing cancer, although the exact reason is still not fully understood. These include:

  • Helping to prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for many cancers
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Improving immune system function, which can help slow the growth of cancer cells
  • Lowering estrogen levels, which is associated with cancer development and progression
  • Preventing high insulin levels, which is also associated with cancer development and progression

Recommended Amount of Exercise

The American Cancer Society® recommends that adults spend at least 150 minutes doing moderate exercise or 75 minutes doing intense exercise throughout the week.

Here are some suggestions to get your body moving more:

  • Wear a pedometer or activity tracker as motivation to increase your daily steps
  • Use a stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical while watching TV
  • Choose the stairs over the elevator whenever possible
  • Park further from your destination when you go out to increase how much you walk
  • Take a walk on your lunch break or during a phone meeting
  • Leave the office/house to buy lunch instead of getting it delivered (walk to pick it up if possible)
  • Catch up with your spouse, partner, kids or friends while strolling around the neighborhood

There are so many reasons to embrace a more active lifestyle. Lowering your risk of breast cancer may be one more reason to add to the list.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.