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Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women living in the United States, claiming the lives of approximately 41,000 women each year. Findings from a new study suggest that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Moderate-intensity exercises include brisk walking, light cycling, or playing doubles tennis. Vigorous-intensity exercises include jogging, hiking, rigorous cycling, or playing basketball, soccer, or singles tennis. Data indicate that fewer than 23 percent of Americans achieve recommended levels of activity.

The questionnaire-based study assessed the lifestyles of 1,340 women with breast cancer at multiple times throughout survivorship, including before, during, and after treatment. Women who met the guidelines before and after treatment were 55 percent less likely to have their cancer return and were 68 percent less likely to die from their cancer. But even if a woman didn’t start exercising until after her treatment began, she was likely to experience benefits, with a 46 percent lower risk of her cancer returning and a 43 percent lower risk of dying. These findings underscore the importance of engaging in regular activity as a means to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and death and suggest that a breast cancer diagnosis can provide an impetus to begin exercising.

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