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October 01, 2017

Study: Fitness could help cut the risk of breast cancer

Sunday marks the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a recent study points to possible solutions to be less susceptible to the disease.

Researchers tested the correlation between fitness and breast cancer susceptibility, testing female rats and discovering that those more fit were significantly less likely to develop cancer than others, regardless of exercise level.

Fitness level was weighed more by genetics -- exercise can, of course, make a difference, but the genetic framework is most significant in identifying an organism’s fitness level.

Rats were studied over several generations, made to run on treadmills. Those most successful on the treadmill were bred with one another, and those less successful also bred with one another. Their offspring thus exhibited either paramount or poor fitness levels.

Researchers then exposed rats to a chemical known to trigger cancer, finding that the rats with poor natural fitness levels were four times more likely to develop breast cancer than the other rats. The poor fitness level rats also had more tumors and contracted the disease earlier compared to the fit rats.

The study’s lead author, Henry J. Thompson, told the New York Times that, though the study focused on rats, the findings could help better understand cancer in humans as it underscores “the pervasive effects” of fitness on the body’s health.

Though it may seem hopeless if genetics weren’t particularly good for your fitness level, Thompson said humans are able to raise our innate fitness abilities with exercise. In future studies, Thompson hopes to specify the amount of exercise to best augment fitness, particularly for those with low genetic capacities, and how that will influence susceptibility to cancer.

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