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Women Have Better Chances Of Surviving Breast Cancer If They Have More Muscle

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Women with more muscle have better chances of surviving breast cancer, though it is understandable that exercise is not the first thing on the minds of patients.

A previous study revealed that higher body fat, possibly due to lack of exercise, leads to a higher breast cancer risk in older women. Apparently, exercise and staying fit will also help those who have already been diagnosed with the dreaded disease.

How To Survive Breast Cancer? Pack More Muscle

Women with more muscle mass in their bodies are more likely to live through breast cancer, according to a study that was published in the JAMA Oncology journal.

The study involved over 3,000 women from the Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and Dana Farber Cancer Institute who were diagnosed with stage II or stage III breast cancer from January 2000 to December 2013. The researchers looked at the CT scans of the participants to determine the connection between muscle mass and mortality rates.

The researchers found that a higher muscle mass leads to higher survival rates, regardless of the age or cancer stage of women. Lower muscle mass, meanwhile, is conversely linked to a higher death risk.

The study, however, was unable to determine why higher muscle mass leads to a higher chance of breast cancer survival. The researchers, however, think there may be a connection with cancer's effect on muscle tissue, as inflammation related to cancer may result in lower muscle mass and increased fat deposits.

"I was surprised by how high the prevalence of sarcopenia was in breast cancer patients with nonmetastatic disease, who in general have good survival," said Bette Caan from Kaiser Permanente. The level of sarcopenia, or lower muscle mass, may soon be used for prognosis upon diagnosis of stage II or stage III breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Exercise Recommendations

"If we're all going to deal with [muscle loss] as we age, better start identifying it as a risk factor now, and targeting it, so we can minimize its impact," said ABC News chief medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton.

Women may build muscle through several ways, including lifting weights, exercises that use their own body weight such as squats, lunges, and yoga. Protein-packed diet is also important, with food such as lean meat, eggs, fish, and nuts.

Of course, women may do more than exercise to lower breast cancer risks, such as avoiding smoking, high-fiber food, and heavy alcohol consumption.

By maintaining a healthy body, breast cancer risk significantly decreases. Women who are diagnosed with the disease, meanwhile, should continue a proper lifestyle to help improve their chance of survival.

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