Exercise May Up Breast Cancer Survival
breast cancer survival may be among the many health perks of
add strong new support to the growing body of evidence that healthy lifestyle
factors such as eating
well and exercising
regularly provide significant health benefits, possibly even offering
protection against cancer recurrences about on par with chemotherapy and even
the newer hormonal and drug treatments.
Regular physical activity reduces risk for invasive breast cancer,
possibly by reducing levels of female hormones.
recently tracked breast cancer survival among more than 1,200 women diagnosed
with breast cancer between 1990 and 1992.
The women were 20-54 years old at the time of their diagnosis (average age: 42).
They recalled their physical activity level at age 13, 20, and the year before
breast cancer diagnosis.
The association was particularly strong for women with a
body mass index (BMI) of more
than 25 -- the statistical threshold for overweight -- who also reported the
highest levels of physical activity in the one year before their diagnosis. (For
reference, a woman 5 feet 5 inches tall who weighs 150 pounds has a BMI of 25.)
Overall, women with rated in the highest 25 percent, in terms of their level of
activity, were 21
percent more likely to survive than those rated in the bottom quarter. The
benefits for women with BMI's above 25 who had high levels of activity rose;
they were 30 percent less likely to die than those with BMI's above 25 who
engaged in low levels of activity.
Women who exercise have a 35 percent lower risk of developing
breast carcinoma in situ than did inactive women.
Most were diagnosed with breast cancer in the disease's early stage, when it
hadn't spread beyond the breast or nearby area.
Most women were still alive eight to 10 years after diagnosis. But 290 died
during that time.
Those who were overweight or
obese at the time of
breast cancer diagnosis -- and were also highly physically active in the year
before -- had a survival rate 30% better than their inactive peers.
No such benefit was seen for women who weren't overweight or obese. But
there was no downside to exercise for any of the women, in terms of breast
According to Page Abrahamson, PhD, was among the researchers who worked on
published in Cancer's Oct. 15 edition, "A beneficial effect was found on
survival for exercise undertaken in the year before diagnosis, particularly
among women who were overweight or obese near the time they were diagnosed with
(Abrahamson worked on the study while at the University of North Carolina,
Chapel Hill. She is now on staff at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
According to Page "While we were able to look for a more general association
between exercise and survival, future studies may be able to assess more
thoroughly the impact of specific types of fitness and exercise patterns. "
She further added ,"Because few studies have investigated the impact of
physical activity on breast cancer survival, more research in this area is
In particular, it is important to study the effects of exercise at different
periods across the lifespan as well as the effect of specific types of activity.
For breast cancer patients, this includes studying the effects of exercise
undertaken following their diagnosis.
While physical activity is no substitute for medical treatment -- and often
difficult for exhausted cancer patients -- the findings indicate breast cancer
patients should try to exercise regularly after undergoing standard care to
maximize their chances of surviving. If future research confirms that physical
activity improves survival among women with breast cancer, programs and policies
to promote such activity for this purpose may be adopted.