5 (Surprising) Reasons Why Exercise and Ovarian Cancer Should Matter to You


What’s the benefit of exercise and physical activity for ovarian cancer prevention? We all know that exercise has a number of benefits for health overall, but what specifically does the research say for ovarian cancer? Most studies suggest that level of exercise throughout a woman’s life and ovarian cancer risk are not necessarily related. Find out some surprising research finds below.

English: Jogging with dog at Carcavelos Beach ...

Exercise may reduce obesity, and therefore, your risk of ovarian cancer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. One study suggests that there is “no overall association between total recreational physical activity and ovarian cancer risk“, but there could be a link between women who spend 6 or more hours per day doing sedentary activities, like reading, watching TV, etc. In this study, 55% of the women who had a history of sedentary lifestyles developed ovarian cancer than those who were active.

2. In 1996, a study performed by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that women who engaged in moderate to high physical activity had the same risk of ovarian cancer as those who were sedentary.  Though physical activity wasn’t found to increase ovarian cancer risk, the scientists suggested that there may be a positive association between ovarian cancer and physical activity which needs further research (which goes against some of our ‘every day’ wisdom that exercise helps prevent cancer).

3. While most ovarian cancer survivors in this study by the University of Alberta expressed interest in physical activity and exercise during recovery, older women, women who were less educated, and those who were retired may be less willing to adopt exercise as a daily routine. However, home-based walking programs were popular among these groups and more cancer survivors are expressing interest in physical activity services post-treatment.

4. A study from Canada suggests that “physical activity may decrease ovarian cancer risk through its influence on obesity” and the fact that physical activity reduces the amount of times a woman may ovulate (ovulation increases exposure to certain hormones that may increase ovarian cancer risk; this has been repeated in several studies). Exercise may also enhance  the immune system, which improves our bodies’ natural “antioxidant defense systems”.

5. In a study of Chinese women, participants with sedentary jobs did show a higher risk for ovarian cancer. Again, this correlation could be due to a reduce incidence of obesity.

Other notes:

Participating in some leisurely activity was shown to reduce the risk of recurring ovarian cancer, but sadly I don’t have access to the full text of this study from the University of Pittsburgh.

What these studies do reinforce is that scientists still don’t even know where this cancer comes from, so the only thing we can keep doing is pushing for screening tests (and staying active, since it keeps the extra weight off!). Based on these findings, I am even more apt to encourage maintaining an active lifestyle in general, since  it definitely does improve your quality of life and overall well being.

What do you think? How have you managed to maintain an exercise program throughout your treatment and/or recovery? Let us know below or start the discussion on the Take Back Teal Facebook page!