Original Source

June 9, 2005

Exercise helps breast cancer recovery, study finds
By Maggie Fox
Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Exercise, already shown to help prevent breast cancer, can also help women recover from surgery and other breast cancer treatments, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.
While the instinct may be to lie low and rest up, in fact it is better to get up and move, even doing strength training, the researchers found.

Breast cancer patients who exercised with a trainer after surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatment felt better and stronger, and their immune systems appeared healthier, than women who rested, according to the study released at a Department of Defense breast cancer meeting in Philadelphia.
"We have some evidence that exercise can help stimulate some of the cells in the immune system and help repair some of the damage done by chemotherapy," study leader Andrea Mastro, a professor of microbiology and cell biology at Pennsylvania State University, said in a telephone interview.

"This wouldn't be specific to breast cancer patients," she added.

Mastro's findings go against the common wisdom of both women and their doctors.
"It interested me that some of the women we approached said, 'Oh I don't know -- my doctor said I should just take it easy for a while,"' Mastro said.

For their study, Mastro's team studied female breast cancer patients aged between 29 and 71, among them 28 who exercised regularly with a personal trainer and 21 who continued their normal, sedentary routines.

"We wanted to include some resistance exercise because we had some evidence from healthy young women that resistance exercise could stimulate the immune system but we didn't want these women to have to go to a gym," Mastro said.
The women did warmups and stretches, 15 to 20 minutes of strength training with exercise bands, and 15 to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise such as walking on a treadmill or a using a stationary bike.


The other women continued their normal routines, which may have included a little walking but usually not even that.
"Most of the women had the same chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy, and most reported doing little if any regular exercise before diagnosis," Mastro said.

After three months the women filled out questionnaires about their health and how they felt.

"They (exercisers) showed increased quality of life," she said. "Their social well being was higher and they were less fatigued."
The exercisers had an overall average quality of life test score of 101.4, compared to 93.9 for the non-exercisers.

Cancer patients often show raised levels of compounds such as interleukin 6 or gamma interferon, which are inflammatory agents, in their blood. The exercisers had a quicker decline in the compounds, Mastro said.

Immune system cells called CD4 helper T-cells, which are damaged by chemotherapy, started to divide faster in the exerciser group, Mastro added.
Mastro's study fits in with several others, including a report published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Harvard Medical School researchers who studied 18 years' worth of data from 3,000 breast cancer patients.

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's breast cancer research program has received more than $1.8 billion to date from Congress for research.
Worldwide, nearly 1.2 million women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. In the United States, breast cancer will kill 40,000 people this year.

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