Exercise helps: Those who remain or become physically active after being diagnosed with breast cancer significantly increase their chances of survival. Even a moderate exercise of three hours of brisk walks per week can reduce mortality by almost a third compared to sedentary patients, as a study has now shown. The effect was particularly pronounced in the case of the frequently occurring “estrogen receptor-positive” breast cancer and in patients who had already passed their menopause.
Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on the course of cancer. For example, physical activity can counteract the anemia that accompanies the disease and leads to weight loss, fatigue and reduced performance in patients. In the case of breast cancer and colon cancer , studies have also shown that exercise can even reduce the risk of death. However, how much and what type of activity is required to positively influence the course of the disease is still largely unknown.
Researchers led by Renée Fortner from the Norwegian Cancer Registry have now, for the first time, examined in more detail what level of exercise actually helps with cancer. To do this, they evaluated data from the Nurses Health study and the Nurses Health II study. Launched in 1976 and 1989, these studies explore disease risk factors in women and include health data from nearly 240,000 US nurses.
The data from a total of 9,308 women suffering from breast cancer were included in the analysis by the research team. Every two years, both before and after the diagnosis, they provided information about the duration and type of their leisure time sporting activities. In order to be able to compare the different physical activities of the women, they first had to be converted into a uniform unit of measurement. Fortner and his colleagues then determined how the women’s risk of death was related to their level of exercise.
Even moderate exercise improves chances of survival
The result: the more active the women were after their diagnosis, the better their disease progressed after cancer therapy. As the scientists report, even moderate physical activity achieved this effect. Accordingly, a relatively small sports program, which corresponds to about three hours of brisk walking a week, was enough to reduce the risk of death in women by a full 27 percent.