Weight gain is common for those undergoing breast cancer treatment, but putting on pounds can be extremely dangerous for patients with breast cancer. According to a review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, exercise and avoiding weight gain is the strongest method to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Researchers found that women who gained more than 10 percent of their body weight during or after breast cancer treatments were more likely to be at risk for breast cancer-related death. Possible reasons for the increased risk include the rise of circulating insulin-like growth factor, sex hormones and proinflammatory ctyokines caused by obesity.
The review included 67 published articles studying the impact of different lifestyle choices such as diet, weight and smoking habits on breast cancer survival. While no specific diet has been proven to improve breast cancer survival, the review authors recommend at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, including 75 minutes of vigorous exercise and around two sessions of strength training to build up muscle.
Healthy lifestyle choices can also lead to mental benefits as well. Authors Julia Hamer and Ellen Warner wrote that “making positive lifestyle changes can also be psychologically beneficial to patients by empowering them, since the feeling of loss of control is one of the biggest challenges of a cancer diagnosis.”
Hamer and Warner emphasized that these recommendations are not guaranteed to stop breast cancer recurrence, but regardless if exercise changes the prognosis, patients can benefit from improving their overall health.