Breast Cancer and Exercise.

29 Jan

The Most Important Principles For Staying Young: 

Breast Cancer and Exercise


Dr. Michael F. Roizen

Co-Author of 4 #1 NY Times Bestsellers including: YOU Staying Young.

The Owner’s Manual For Extending Your Warranty (Free Press)

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing:  You get a do over: it doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do.  In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you, and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over your quality and length of life.

This month, we wonder…

If Exercise Is So Good As A Preventive Strategy, Then Why Do So Many 

Great Women Athletes of the Recent Past Get Breast Cancer?

Arnold said it best: “I don’t know an athlete who hasn’t given up her body for her sport.” Yes, a little intense exercise prevents breast cancer, but too much promotes it. We’ll tell you the appropriate amount for best health and to best prevent breast cancer below (don’t peak). But first, why does intense exercise for prolonged periods cause breast cancer if a little intense or even moderate exercise prevents it?

The key is how many free radicals you produce (exercise produces them inside your cells; longer and more intense exercise produces more free radicals) and how many antioxidants you produce (it is the antioxidants you produce and have inside your cell when you exercise, not that you eat, that are key).

You see, the key to preventing abnormal DNA inside your cells is handcuffing the free radicals you produce as soon as you produce them with antioxidants inside you cell (before those radicals can do damage), and harmlessly escorting the cuffed (or bound to an anti) free radical out of your body. A little intense exercise actually helps your cells learn how to produce more antioxidants, that’s why a little regular, intense exercise is good.

But, too much intense exercise at once (think Olympic training regimen, or marathon) overwhelms most people’s inside the cell antioxidant producing capability. This promotes breast (and other) cancers, free radicals and wear and tear damage elsewhere.

As it turns out, you can run from breast cancer, if you do the right amount of exercise with the right intensity. Run, lift weights, do stretch bands, cycle, walk, swim – any regular, occasionally intense, exercise will slash your risk by up to 30%.  (Some studies show even active housework and gardening can make a difference.) A little vigorous exercise helps your cells learn how to produce antioxidants inside your cells, and you can benefit at any age.

So to answer the question, a little exercise really can fend off the biggies . . . like breast cancer. Bet on it!! Staying active reduces your odds of colon, pancreatic and prostate cancer (for men). Breast cancer rates are at least 33% lower in women who exercise regularly; in fact, two studies show just 20 minutes of daily walking cut them by 34 to 38%.

How does this work? Yes, moderate or intense physical activity helps you produce more antioxidants inside your cells to reduce DNA damage rates, but exercise also lowers specific hormone levels. Exercise also helps you decrease inflammation, which helps make it more likely you’ll live without disability from heart disease, stroke or memory loss. Physical activity also reduces body fat and triggers a chain reaction: Less fat, less estrogen, and less inflammation, and… less cancer risk.

So, what’s the best routine according to the data? #1) General physical activity every day (10,000 steps every day, no excuses). #2) Two days of strength training for just 15 to 30 minutes each of the two days.  It’s form (shoulders back and relaxed, core centered and strong, pelvis tucked in very slightly) and repetitions (3 sets of 12) that get results. #3) 20 minutes of cardio (raising your heart rate to at least 80% of your age-adjusted max) three times a week, with one minute as intense as your doc says you can go every 10 minutes. This triple combo will make you stronger, more relaxed and healthier in many ways, from dodging cancer and heart disease to keeping your mind sharp and your emotions calm.  Remember, there are other things to add, like daily cruciferous veggies, avoidance of getting too big a waist, and two baby aspirins with a half glass of water for maximum prevention of breast cancer (only if your doc agrees).

Thanks for reading.

Young Dr Mike

NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice. 

This article is of the opinion of its author.

Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.

You can follow Dr Roizen  (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories  of the week) on twitter @YoungDrMike. 

Feel free to continue to send questions to You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week).  The YOU docs have a new web site:  and its companion the only site we know of where you can find skin products proven to meet the claims (opened for business on June 1st, 2012), and a new book: YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens.

Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on  Saturdays from 5-7 p.m . E-mail him questions at   He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including : YOU Staying Young and YOU: The Owner’s Manual. He is Chief Medical Consultant to the two year running Emmy award winning Dr Oz show– The Dr Oz show is #2 nationally in daytime TV.  See what all the fun is about, and what he, The Enforcer, is up to. Check local listings or log onto for channel and time. And for more health info, log onto anytime.






















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