Walk Each Day to Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Medically reviewed in January 2022

Nearly 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time every year. But it turns out that something as simple as walking could help keep you off of that list.

A study of more than 73,000 postmenopausal women with an average age approaching 63 indicated a 14% lower risk of breast cancer when walking at a moderate pace (about 3 mph) for an hour a day, compared to women who lived a more sedentary lifestyle. The risk was reduced by 25% for women who engaged in an hour or more of strenuous exercise.

Cut Your Cancer Risk One Walk at a Time
Doctors believe that walking – and exercise in general – aids in breast cancer prevention because it has an effect on estrogen. Breast cancer is scientifically linked to estrogen exposure – higher exposure means a higher risk of breast cancer. And older women who participate in physical activities like walking tend to have lower levels of estrogen than women who lead a less active lifestyle.

Here’s more good news: Walking is something that nearly every woman can do to protect herself. It also decreases body fat, lowers insulin levels (high insulin levels are linked to breast cancer) and helps reduce inflammation that contributes to cancer growth. What’s more, walking strengthens your heart, lungs and bones. And it’s free!

There are other easy ways to lower your breast cancer risk, in addition to your daily walk:

  • Dial in your diet. Load up on cruciferous veggies like broccoli, dark greens like spinach, berries and foods high in fiber. All of these may help to aid in breast cancer prevention. (Try these yummy high-fiber options)
  • Put down the cocktail. Limiting your alcohol intake is one of the easiest things you can do to lower your breast cancer risk. If you must indulge, try and stick to one alcoholic beverage each day.

What else do you need to know about breast cancer prevention?

  • While a lump in the breast, breast swelling, new breast pain or a rash on the breast are common physical symptoms of breast cancer, there are certain situations where there are no physical symptoms at all. So make sure you’re scheduling your mammograms regularly. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam every three years as part of a regular health exam. If you’re 45 or older, you should start having them every year. Also, get to know how your breasts normally look and feel, so you’ll be alert to any changes.
  • Remember to lie down during your self-exams. This allows the breast tissue to spread out evenly, making it thinner and easier to feel for lumps. Self-exams should be performed once a month at the end of your period when the breasts are less swollen and tender. And keep in mind that performing your own self-exam should first be discussed with your doctor.
  • If you have dense breasts, you’re up to five times more likely to develop breast cancer. Regular film mammograms may have a harder time detecting cancer in dense breasts, but MRI’s, ultrasounds and digital mammography can help detect lumps. Ask your doctor which test may be best for you. Learn more about dense breasts.

It’s hard to find activities that don’t take up all of your time and cost nothing. There are even fewer activities that help protect you against the cancer that one in eight women will develop in her lifetime.

So go on, ladies. Lace up those sneakers and fight back against breast cancer one step at a time.

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