According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, breast cancer survivors who engage in regular physical activity and eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables have a significantly reduced risk of death. The benefit of the healthy behaviors applied to both obese and non-obese women.
Several studies have evaluated the effects of either physical activity or diet on breast cancer survival, but there is little information about the effects of combining healthy behaviors.
To explore how interactions among diet, physical activity, and obesity influence survival after breast cancer, researchers evaluated information from close to 1,500 women with early breast cancer (Stage I to Stage III). The women were an average of two years beyond their breast cancer diagnosis at the time of the study.
High fruit and vegetable intake was defined as at least five servings per day. A high level of physical activity was defined as the equivalent of walking 30 minutes per day, six days per week. Obesity was defined as a body mass index of 30 or greater.
- Compared to women with low fruit and vegetable intake and low physical activity, women with high fruit and vegetable intake and high physical activity had a 44% decrease in risk of death. Women with either high physical activity or high fruit and vegetable intake (but not both) did not have a significantly decreased risk of death.
- The reduction in risk of death among women with both high fruit and vegetable intake and high physical activity was observed among both obese and non-obese women. However, only 16% of obese women reported both high fruit and vegetable intake and high physical activity, compared with 30% of non-obese women.
- The benefit of the combination of healthy diet and physical activity was most apparent among women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.
The results of this study suggest that a combination of regular physical activity and high fruit and vegetable intake can improve survival among women with breast cancer regardless of their body weight.
Reference: Pierce JP, Stefanick ML, Flatt SW et al. Greater survival after breast cancer in physically active women with high vegetable-fruit intake regardless of obesity. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2007;25:2345-2351.