Many Breast Cancer Survivors Remain Inactive After Treatment

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Physical activity reduces the risk of disease recurrence and comorbidities in survivors of breast cancer.
Physical activity reduces the risk of disease recurrence and comorbidities in survivors of breast cancer.

Despite the known benefits of physical activity for breast cancer survivors, a large proportion of this population continues to be physically inactive after treatment, according to a study published in the journal Cancer.1

Previous studies have shown that physical activity reduces the risk of disease recurrence and comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease in survivors of breast cancer; however, what percentage of patients participates in moderate-intensity to vigorous-intensity physical activity in the early posttreatment period is unclear.

For the study, investigators surveyed 548 women at 3 time points 6 months apart following primary treatment of breast cancer. Participants reported physical activity and sociodemographic, health-related, and psychosocial factors. Investigators included cancer-related factors obtained from chart reviews.

The researchers found that 42.5% of patients participated in low amounts of moderate-intensity to vigorous-intensity physical activity, 45% in a medium amount, and 12.0% in a high amount.

After adjusting for multiple variables, the study showed that the 42.5% of patients in the least active group had a higher body mass index and were less likely to report alcohol consumption compared with more active breast cancer survivors. 

Patients in the low moderate-intensity to vigorous-intensity physical activity group also had a higher likelihood of smoking cigarettes and having worse physical functioning and vitality scores; however, cancer treatment-related factors did not significantly predict for the level of physical activity patients participated in during the survivorship trajectory.

Given the findings that show approximately 4 in 10 breast cancer survivors have limited physical activity, further research is needed to develop interventions that ultimately decrease morbidity and mortality.


1. Lucas AR, Levine BJ, Avis NE. Posttreatment trajectories of physical activity in breast cancer survivors. Cancer. 2017 March 8. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30641 [Epub ahead of print]
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