Breast Cancer Patients May Not Be Getting Enough Exercise

A new study published today online in CANCER shows that the majority of breast cancer patients did not meet national physical activity guidelines after they were diagnosed

A new study published today online in CANCER shows that the majority of breast cancer patients did not meet national physical activity guidelines after they were diagnosed. The study also showed that African-American women were less likely to meet the guidelines than white women.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined levels of and changes in physical activity following breast cancer diagnosis. The study assessed pre- and post-diagnosis physical activity levels in 1735 women aged 20 to 74 years who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 2008 and 2011 in 44 counties of North Carolina.

Only 35% of breast cancer survivors met current physical activity guidelines (at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week) post-diagnosis.

A decrease in activity approximately 6 months after diagnosis was reported by 59% of patients, with the average participant reducing activity by 15 metabolic equivalent hours—equivalent to about 5 hours per week of brisk walking.

When compared with white women, African-American women were about 40% less likely to meet national physical activity guidelines post-diagnosis, although their reported weekly post-diagnosis physical activity was not significantly different from that of white women (12 vs 14 metabolic equivalent hours).

Prior studies have shown that physical activity after breast cancer diagnosis has been linked with prolonged survival and improved quality of life.

"Medical care providers should discuss the role physical activity plays in improving breast cancer outcomes with their patients, and strategies that may be successful in increasing physical activity among breast cancer patients need to be comprehensively evaluated and implemented," Brionna Hair, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lead author of the study said in a press release.