Older breast cancer survivors benefit from exercise

Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University say that because treatment for cancer is linked to loss of bone density, a reduction in lean body mass and weight gain, older breast cancer survivors are at a higher risk of developing diseases related to obesity, fractures and breast cancer recurrence.

The researchers previously conducted a study on 106 early stage postmenopausal breast cancer survivors over the age of 50. The women were randomly assigned to a supervised one-year resistance and impact program, or a stretching placebo program. Results of the study revealed that the women who carried out the resistance and impact program had increased muscle strength and reduced loss of bone density, compared with the women in the placebo program.

For their follow-up study, the researchers wanted to see whether these benefits could be achieved long-term and so they completed assessments one year later on 44 women who were a part of the original study. The researchers measured their muscle mass, fat mass, upper and lower body strength and the bone mineral density of the hip and spine. Some of the women in the follow-up study had continued with lower-level exercise, while others had stopped exercise since the previous study. 

The results showed that all women continued to exhibit improvements in their spine bone mineral density, suggesting that this can be preserved even after regular exercise has stopped.

However, the women's muscle strength declined faster than bone density, indicating that muscle strength must be maintained through continued exercise programs.

The researchers note that their study is the first to report the long-term effects of supervised exercise programs that have been previously carried out by breast cancer survivors.

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Sourced from: Medical News Today, Breast cancer: older survivors benefit from exercise programs