Women with a family history of breast cancer can reduce their risk of developing the disease through regular exercise, say researchers.
With the evidence that reducing estrogen in the body reduces cancer risk, and that elite female athletes experience a drop in estrogen levels that often cause them to stop ovulating and menstruating, University of Pennsylvania researchers are conducting further studies to understand whether reduce their risk.
Previous studies have shown that women who carry BRCA genetic mutations move on to develop breast or ovarian cancer during their lives.
While surgeries are highly effective, the procedure isn't recommended for those with a family history of breast cancer but do not carry the mutation.
Over the next three years, lead researcher Dr Kathryn Schmitz, an assistant professor in the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and her colleagues will enroll 160 women ages 18 to 40 with an elevated risk of developing breast cancer and will investigate two different levels of regular treadmill exercise as a possible intervention for breast cancer risk reduction.
The investigators plan to use their findings to offer effective exercise guidelines for high-risk women.
"We are interested in rigorously investigating all potential options to decrease cancer risk," said Dr Susan Domchek, director of the Abramson Cancer Centre's Cancer Risk Evaluation Program, co-researcher of the study.
"Exercise is a wonderful intervention due to its numerous health benefits. However, it is important for us to quantify the amount of exercise needed and the potential benefits such exercise might provide," she added.