Strong Muscles May Help You Beat Breast Cancer

Here’s another reason women need to incorporate strength training as they age: it doesn’t just make you feel healthier; it may improve your odds against breast cancer.

In a recent study published in JAMA Oncology, researchers found that patients with a lower muscle mass were significantly less likely to survive stage II or III breast cancer.

To come to this conclusion, the research team observed 3421 women, all of whom had been diagnosed with stage II or III breast cancer. Based on an abdominal CT scan, it was easy for researchers to determine the ratio of muscle to adipose (fat) tissue.

The patients who had less muscle and more fat, known as sarcopenia (muscle deficiency or lacking), were significantly less likely to survive breast cancer than those with a healthy muscle-to-fat ratio.

There are a few possibilities as to why this might be the case.

By nature, cancers cause the body to lose muscle. Not only is it a struggle for the body to hold onto energy for muscle maintenance during cancer, but tumors also release a factor which blocks muscle repair. This phenomenon, also known as ‘cancer wasting’, is responsible for 20 to 30 percent of cancer deaths.

If a woman had already suffered from an earlier cancer or had a more aggressive form of breast cancer, her muscle mass could already be greatly reduced, putting her at greater risk with this second cancer. However, a lifelong sedentary lifestyle is also a setup for muscle deficiency and healing challenges if cancer hits.

Those with higher muscle mass upon diagnosis are generally fitter and adhere to healthier lifestyles, meaning their bodies may be better prepared to weather a traumatic battle like breast cancer and increase their chances of survival.

That’s why it is so crucial to keep reasonably fit and healthy, especially after age 40 and up.

Here's another reason women need to incorporate strength training as they age: it doesn’t just make you feel healthier; it may improve your odds against breast cancer.

Of course, don’t take this news to mean that every woman needs to go out and start deadlifting. What it does mean is that it is important to hold on to muscle mass, especially as you age.

Every year after age 30, people who live a sedentary lifestyle can lose up to 5 percent of their muscle mass per decade. And if you’re sick or injured in bed, you could lose that much in a week.

By simply following a regular strength training regimen, even with small baby weights a couple times a week, you’re seriously helping your body to hold on to the muscles it already has.

Acting preventatively by following a healthy, active lifestyle, no matter how old you are, is one of the greatest things you can do to boost your odds against cancer. And the side effects? You’ll experience less back pain, reduce your chances of diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and depression.

Oh, and you’ll feel happier and healthier. Sounds like a win.

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Images via Thinkstock.


Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Cindy S
Cindy Smith9 months ago


Marija M
Marija M10 months ago


Daniel N
Past Member 10 months ago

Thank you

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez10 months ago


Leanne K
Leanne K10 months ago

See, no animal testing required. Great info from sensible verifiable research methodology

Mark T
Mark T10 months ago


Andrea B
Andrea B10 months ago

The right diet will keep you save, not muscles

Cathy B
Cathy B10 months ago

Thank you.

Amanda M
Amanda McConnell10 months ago

Thanks for sharing