Breast cancer risk, prognosis and weight gain reduced with physical activity

10/29/04

Designing physical activity programs and interventions geared to breast cancer survivors will increase well-being and may improve prognosis, Yale researchers report in a recent issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

"Despite the evidence suggesting that regular physical activity can protect against weight gain, decrease breast cancer risk, and potentially improve breast cancer prognosis, efforts to encourage physical activity are not a routine part of the cancer treatment or rehabilitation process," said principal investigator Melinda L. Irwin, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine.

Irwin added that only 32 percent of breast cancer survivors participated in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity sports/recreational activity per week. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, poorer survival among women with the disease, and a more advanced stage at diagnosis. Fewer obese breast cancer survivors met the recommendation than overweight and lean survivors.

Irwin and colleagues studied 806 women with early stage breast cancer. The women were participating in the Health, Eating, Activity and Lifestyle (HEAL) study, a population-based, multi-center, prospective cohort that includes1,223 black, non-Hispanic white and Hispanic breast cancer survivors. The women are being followed to determine whether weight, physical activity, diet, sex hormones and other exposures affect breast cancer prognosis. Physical activity was assessed during an in-person interview.

Irwin is recruiting breast cancer survivors who are not currently exercising at the recommended levels into the Yale Exercise and Survivorship Study. The program is designed to examine the effect of exercise on factors related to breast cancer prognosis, such as hormone levels and body fat. Any woman living in Connecticut, diagnosed with breast cancer within the past five years and who is interested in participating, should contact the study coordinator at 203-764-8426.

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