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Lifespan of Breast Cancer Survivors can be Increased

Lifespan of Breast Cancer Survivors can be Increased

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  • Breast cancer survivors who exercise regularly can lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer recurrence
  • A mix of aerobic and resistance training can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome in breast cancer survivors

Regular exercise can help increase the life expectancy of breast cancer survivors, as exercise can lower their heightened risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast cancer recurrence.

"Many people don't know the No. 1 cause of death for breast cancer survivors is heart disease, not cancer," said Christina Dieli-Conwright, lead author of a USC study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.


Breast cancer was found to have a higher survival rate. An estimated 9 out of 10 people who were diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive even after five years, reveals the American Cancer Society. However, the problem is that women tend to gain weight during breast cancer treatment.

In this study, the research team suggests that female breast cancer survivors need to engage in a mix of aerobic and resistance training to reduce their risk for metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health conditions including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and excessive body fat. Increased levels of triglycerides increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.

Dieli-Conwright, an assistant professor of research at the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy said, "In breast cancer patients, metabolic syndrome is exacerbated by obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and receipt of chemotherapy."

This study reveals that women who had metabolic syndrome were 17 percent more likely to develop breast cancer, three times more likely to get breast cancer recurrence and two times more likely to die from breast cancer.

Exercise Improves Heart Health

In this randomized trial, about 100 breast cancer survivors who received cancer treatment for less than six months before enrolling in the study were included.

The experimental group was given three one-on-one sessions per week for four months. In this program, resistance training with weights and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes were included.

At the beginning of this study, there was about 46 percent obese participants and 77 percent participants had metabolic syndrome.

However, after the intervention, it was found that there was only about 15 percent of in the exercise group who had metabolic syndrome when compared to 80 percent of them in the control group.

Women who exercised regularly have lost fat and gained muscle. They were also found to have reduced risk of heart disease. There was 10 percent decrease in their blood pressure and 50 percent increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein), otherwise known as good cholesterol.

Obesity and Inflammation

Obesity causes inflammation and can promote tumor growth, which can cause cancer recurrence, said Dieli-Conwright, who works with patients from the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Los Angeles County at the USC Medical Center.

In a previous study, Dieli-Conwright had analyzed blood samples and fat biopsies of 20 obese patients and found that exercise has improved systemic inflammation and has also reduced inflammation in fat cells.

Dieli-Conwright said that exercise is a form of medicine and both these studies support this idea. She also said that they would continue to conduct further research to supplement traditional cancer therapies.

Obesity Promotes Breast Cancer

Obesity leads to the release of cytokines into the bloodstream which impacts the metabolism of breast cancer cells, making them more aggressive. 

Globally, the number of people who are obese is increasing rapidly. Severe overweight can lead to various health impairments inducing stroke, heart attack, and diabetes.

  1. Marcos Rios Garcia et al,. Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase 1-Dependent Protein Acetylation Controls Breast Cancer Metastasis and Recurrence. Cell MetabolismDOI:10.1016/j.cmet.2017.09.018

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