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Local study asks, does a day's exercise fight breast cancer? (KOMO photo)

SEATTLE--We often think of exercise as a way to lose weight. But exercise is key for warding off disease, too. Research is underway right now to see how quickly you might get that benefit.

New federal guidelines say we should spend 150 minutes a week exercising at a moderate or greater intensity. But if you can't hit that goal, the guidelines urge you to still do something.

Dr. Anne McTiernan is a cancer prevention researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. "Small amounts of exercise are helpful. There's no exercise below which you would say, it does no good," she said.

And the good from exercise goes deep. Scientists found strong evidence that exercise cuts your risk of many types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, stomach and bladder cancers.

Researchers found the breast cancer benefit in women who - over time - exercised several times a week. But does that cancer fighting benefit kick in immediately?

McTiernan is trying to answer that question with a study called the Acute Exercise in Women or ACE study.

"What happens right away?" McTiernan asked. "What happens right after somebody exercises and in an hour after that. Are they getting some benefit then?"

Susan Keown volunteered for the study that will include blood draws to see if exercise changes telltale cancer risk indicators in the blood.

"My own family has been affected by cancer, different types. And I think all of us have that connection to cancer, unfortunately," Keown said. "So getting involved in things like this is my way to do my part."

If there is an immediate cancer fighting benefit, it will strengthen recommendations for daily exercise. And that doesn't have to be daunting. Doctors say it's a simple as finding something you enjoy, so you'll stick with it.

The ACE study is still looking for volunteers. Women just need to be between 18 and 75 years old. There's no requirement for how much they currently exercise. For more information, visit the study website, or you can email acestudy@fredhutch.org or call 888-508-0395.

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