Breast cancer is the most lethal cancer affecting women worldwide. While most are caught early thanks to the many diagnostic tests available, some still get through and reach metastasis. Thankfully, several chemotherapies and immunotherapies are currently available, or one their way to being FDA approved. Never-the-less, doctors, and patients are always on the lookout for ways to fight cancer outside of the hospital.
The benefits of an active lifestyle, or even just regular exercise, are quite well known nowadays. It can increase your cardiovascular health, your metabolism, improve your mood, and many other things. It has even been shown that I could help with cancer.
A team from the Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University in France hypothesized that the benefits of exercise might extend into the fight against breast cancer. Several studies have already shown that staying active can improve the overall quality of life among breast cancer patients. With this study, they intended to see if it could improve the overall survival rate amongst the four major breast cancer subtypes, estrogen+, progesterone+, HER2+, and Triple Negative Breast Cancer (ER/PR/HER2+/TNBC) after they had reached metastasis.
To do this, they gathered data from the SNPs to the risk of metastasis (StoRM) database on eight hundred and thirty-three patients. The StoRM project in France is designed to identify genetic and other factors related to breast cancer metastasis by gathering patient data from across the country. These patients were diverse in ages, breast cancer sub-type, and activity level, which would give them a good representation of real-world expectations.
Although initial data seemed to show that a higher activity level correlated with a better survival rate, there was no difference between light, moderate, and high activity groups after normalizing several variables. HER2+ breast cancers deviated from this, however. They showed a clear benefit of exercise on survival rate, with the high activity group showing the best results.
While these results may not be a glowing recommendation for exercise as a means to combat cancer, it still has its benefits. Patients with a high level of activity before diagnosis had a much better prognosis, and it only got better with higher activity levels. This study focused on the examination of metastatic patients, however. Once metastasis occurs, treatment usually centers around chemo- and immunotherapies.
The group concludes, “In conclusion, we found that moderate/vigorous levels of physical activity were associated with better overall survival in metastatic breast cancer patients in our exploratory analysis, and that these associations remained statistically significant in multivariate analysis in the HER2 positive subgroup.”