Losing Weight May be the Best Way to Fight Cancer

Prostate cancer awareness

A large trial is being launched this summer to establish whether diet and exercise regimes should be prescribed by doctors for women who have had breast cancer in the same way that they prescribe drugs, to prevent the disease returning and potentially save lives.

Women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of breast cancer. But accumulating evidence suggests that becoming fitter and losing some pounds after a diagnosis could cut the chances of a recurrence and even lower the risk of death.

A number of small studies looking at the benefits of exercise and weight loss on cancer by researchers at Yale University in the US are being presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting (ASCO) in Chicago.

Prof Melinda Irwin, associate director at Yale Cancer Center and professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, said: “We found a strong connection between exercise after diagnosis and mortality afterwards.

“Most interestingly, it showed the impact on changes in activity on mortality – even if you’ve never been active before taking regular exercise seemed to show a great impact.”

The studies followed women who went on a diet and started taking exercise after cancer but they did not randomly assign women to a fitness regime or not, so it is possible those who did well were also better at taking their drug treatment.

“But I am in the camp that says this association is causal and reversible – and that’s what these latest studies indicate,” said Irwin.

“They show that losing weight and taking up exercise have a significant effect on the biomarkers of cancer. They are showing that it’s causal – that by changing activity or weight loss it could improve your prognosis. This is crucial.”

Among these small studies is one involving 144 women with ovarian cancer who did 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week for six months. Early results show they had a drop in the levels of certain hormones linked with the growth of tumours, compared with women who did not exercise.

Another study of 221 women with breast cancer found those who lost weight on a diet had a drop in the levels of a protein that fuels tumour growth.

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SOURCE: Sarah Boseley  
The Guardian