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Study shows the effect of exercise on breast cancer survivors

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Research published by Syracuse University has found that resistance and aerobic exercise can reduce side effects and improve health outcomes in breast cancer patients.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis for women in the United States, and 65 percent of women with breast cancer are overweight or obese.

The study found that regular exercise can help patients with side effects from Aromatase Inhibitors, or AIs, which are hormone therapy drugs that stop the production of estrogen.

AIs are given to breast cancer patients to reduce the risk of recurrence, but they can have significant adverse side effects including bone loss and severe joint pain or arthralgia, Roughly 40 percent of women stop taking AIs prior to the full, five-year treatment plan.

“When women quit taking AIs, they increase the chances of their breast cancer reoccurring,” Gwendolyn Thomas, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise science at Syracuse University and co-author of the study, said in a press release. “If breast cancer survivors are obese or overweight, they are likely to experience arthralgia. Interventions that address obesity in women taking AIs can help them continue this necessary treatment.

Thomas recently joined the faculty at Syracuse University, though the research was conducted at Yale University where she previously worked as an associate research scientist, in collaboration with Melinda Irwin, the study’s principal investigator and researchers from Columbia, Penn State and the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Research focused on the effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on postmenopausal breast cancer survivors taking AIs. Study participants were monitored doing a series of exercises every week for a year.

“We noticed a drop in percent body fat and body mass index, as well as a significant increase in their lean body mass,” Thomas said. “These changes have clinical benefits, but also suggest that exercise should be prescribed in conjunction with AIs, as part of a regular treatment regimen.”

The study was published in the Obesity Journal.

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