Lifestyle changes help obese breast cancer women
Even if they remained obese, women who survived breast cancer cut their risk of dying from a recurrence of the disease if they had a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercised moderately, a study found on Friday.
Researchers said on Friday the study differs from many others in that it assesses the combined effects of diet and exercise on extending the lives of women who have survived breast cancer, rather than looking at them separately.
Researchers from the University of California-San Diego tracked 1,490 U.S. women averaging 50 years old who were diagnosed and treated for early-stage breast cancer between 1991 and 2000.
Those who ate five servings of vegetables and fruits daily and walked for 30 minutes six days a week cut their risk of death from breast cancer by about 50 percent, the study found.
"Of particular importance, this halving of risk was seen in women who were not obese as well as in those who were obese," the researchers wrote in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
They followed the women for between 5 and 11 years.
Among the women in the study, 135 died, including 118 from breast cancer, 10 from other cancers and seven from causes other than cancer.
The reduction in death rate was not seen in women who either ate the right diet or got enough exercise, but did not do both.
The findings reinforce the notion that lifestyle changes can be crucial in extending the lives of people who have battled cancer, in addition to being important in reducing the risk of developing some types of cancer in the first place.
Lead researcher John Pierce, who heads the university's cancer prevention and control program, said the findings offer hope for overweight and obese breast cancer survivors that they do not necessarily have to lose large amounts of weight to see benefits.
"Even if they don't get out of the obese category, if they're exercising and they're following a good diet, they've reduced their (mortality) risk," Pierce said in a telephone interview.
"That's not saying that weight loss won't really help them," Pierce added. "But they're going to get benefits just from doing this."
A total of 16 percent of the obese women in the study both exercised and followed the recommended diet, compared to 30 percent of the rest of the women
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