MAY 22, 2020 7:36 AM PDT

Even minimal exercise can reduce breast cancer recurrence

New research urges individuals at high-risk of breast cancer to get moving, shaking, shimmying, and kicking! According to a study published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, even minimal exercise can have a significant impact on helping patients stay cancer-free after treatment, so why not try it? The comprehensive analysis is a result of a clinical trial run by SWOG Cancer Research Network, a cancer clinical trials network funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

"Aiming for as little as two and half hours a week of exercise - the minimum under federal guidelines - can have a big impact for women with high-risk breast cancer," said study lead Rikki Cannioto, Ph.D., EdD. "Our research shows that some physical activity is far better, in terms of cancer survival than no activity at all and it is just as beneficial as longer workouts."

Not only does physical activity extend lives, but the SWOG study reveals that for patients meeting the minimum federal exercise guidelines before and after treatment, it is correlated with a 55% decrease in risk of their cancer returning. Exercising the standard amount also reduced the risk of death by 68%. 

Interestingly, the study also determined that as long as one is meeting the minimum federal guidelines, exercising a moderate amount can do just as much good as exercising to the max. 

"What these results suggest for doctors - and patients - is that even a modest exercise routine, taken up after cancer treatment, can help women with high-risk breast cancer live longer and healthier lives," Cannioto said. "It's never too late to start walking, doing yoga, cycling, or swimming - and that activity certainly appears to pay off."

Photo: Pixabay

Other good news is that you don’t have to have been exercising before treatment to get these beneficial outcomes. The analysis showed that even patients who started exercising only after treatment still showed a 46% decreased chance of recurrence and a 43% decreased chance of dying.

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that cancer-treatment protocols involve guidelines about getting sufficient physical activity, stating that these associations suggest that even minimal exercise is associated with statistically significantly reduced hazards of recurrence and mortality among breast cancer patients.

Sources: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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