Exercise has a positive impact on survival after breast cancer

Exercise has a positive impact on survival after breast cancer

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Physical activity after diagnosis improves breast cancer survival

Every year around 70,000 women in Germany develop breast cancer. Around 18,000 women die of the disease every year. A new study has now shown that physical activity has a positive effect on survival after breast cancer. Even if women who were not athletic did not become physically active until after they had been diagnosed.

It has long been known that an active life can prevent cancer. The risk of breast cancer can also be reduced through exercise. But physical activity also improves breast cancer survival. This applies even if women who were not athletic did not become sufficiently active until after the diagnosis. This is the conclusion reached by researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). Her work is reported in the specialist magazine "Breast Cancer Research".

Favorable effects before and after diagnosis

As the DKFZ wrote in a communication, many studies indicate that physical activity before a breast cancer diagnosis has a positive effect on the survival of women. This is particularly evident for breast cancer that occurs after menopause.

So far, however, the influence of physical activity after diagnosis on the prognosis of breast cancer has rarely been examined. The question of whether and how changes in physical activity due to the diagnosis affect breast cancer survival has also been very little researched.

In order to gather more knowledge here, epidemiologists from the DKFZ around Jenny Chang Claude and Audrey Jung have now examined the data of 3,813 participants in the MARIE study.

"MARIE is a population-based case-control study with over 10,000 participants, which was carried out between 2002 and 2005 to determine possible risk factors for the development of breast cancer after the menopause," explains the DKFZ.

Activity level was recorded before and after diagnosis

According to the information, the study participants, who all developed breast cancer after the menopause, were included in the prospective cohort study between 2002 and 2005 and followed up until 2015. Your activity level before diagnosis was recorded at the start of the study and the level after diagnosis during surveys in 2009.

Leisure sports such as swimming, Nordic walking and aerobics were recorded. In order to better compare the individual activities, the scientists calculated the energy consumption for each sport using the so-called metabolic equivalents, or MET for short.

The limit that the World Cancer Research Fund guidelines recommend as sufficient for a healthy lifestyle is 7.5 MET-hours / week. This corresponds to at least 150 minutes / week of medium-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes / week of high-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both.

Two key results

The study came to two main conclusions:

  • Women who did not exercise before or after diagnosis (0 MET hours / week) had a higher mortality risk than women who exercised enough before and after diagnosis (≥7.5 MET hours / week). This was true for both breast cancer specific and general mortality.
  • Initially, less athletic women who did not exercise enough after the diagnosis (≥7.5 MET hours / week) had a more favorable prognosis than patients who were not sufficiently active neither before nor after the diagnosis (<7.5 MET Hours / week).

These results are independent of other prognostic and lifestyle factors that were considered in the analysis.

At least 150 minutes a week

“Our work has shown that breast cancer survivors who do moderate physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week have a better prognosis than women who haven't been physically active. The remarkable thing is: This effect is independent of how much sport the women did before the illness, ”explains study director Jenny Chang-Claude.

This again confirms the importance of physical activity to improve survival after breast cancer. “According to our results, this may even apply particularly to women who have not exercised enough before their illness. In this group, we see that taking in sufficient physical activity has almost halved the mortality risk, ”says lead author Audrey Jung. However, the two scientists emphasize that these results must be confirmed by further studies. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

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