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Exercise & Weight

Learn about the effects of diet, lifestyle, and surgical menopause on cancer risk and quality-of-life for people with HBOC.


Regular exercise provides many health benefits and may affect cancer risk. Research shows that exercise lowers estrogen levels which may reduce breast cancer risk.

One study in women with BRCA mutations showed those who were most active during their teens developed breast cancer at a later age than mutation carriers who were sedentary at a young age.  

Exercise has other benefits. Lymphedema is fluid buildup and swelling that develops in a limb or other part of the body when the lymphatic system is disrupted by surgery, trauma, or radiation. A common byproduct of breast surgery, lymphedema may affect the arm. The swelling and impaired lymph function can cause pain, infection, and loss of arm mobility. Overuse or injury can cause lymphedema to flare up, and arm swelling may worsen over time.

Patients with lymphedema have traditionally been advised to avoid heavy exertion and weightlifting in the arm or on the side affected by lymphedema. However, weightlifting is an effective way to use muscle and build strength so the arm or affected limb will be less prone to injury.

A study for women with lymphedema showed that patients who participated in the weightlifting program increased their strength and had fewer swelling flare-ups compared to the control patients.

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