Exercise protects against aggressive breast cancer in black women

December 11, 2013

SAN ANTONIO --A nearly 20-year observational study involving more than 44,700 black women nationwide found that regular vigorous exercise offers significant protection against development of an aggressive subtype of breast cancer. The findings from the Black Women's Health Study are being presented at the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The research team, co-led by scientists at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and Boston University, found that black women who engaged in brisk exercise for a lifetime average of three or more hours a week had a 47 percent reduced risk of developing estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer compared with those exercising an average of one hour per week, according to a preliminary analysis. The results will be updated at the meeting.

This form of breast cancer, which includes HER2-positive and triple negative tumors, is linked to both higher incidence and mortality in black women, relative to white women. ER- tumors do not respond to hormone therapies used to treat tumors that have the estrogen receptor.

"These findings are very encouraging. Knowing that exercise may protect against breast cancers that disproportionately strike black women is of great public health importance," says Lucile Adams-Campbell, PhD, professor of oncology and associate director of Minority Health & Health Disparities Research at Georgetown Lombardi.

"We all want to do what we can to reduce our risk of disease and improve our health, and along with other well known benefits, we now show that exercise can possibly stave off development of potentially lethal breast cancer in black women," she says.

Exercise, at any level, appeared to have no effect on development of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) in these women, the researchers say. They cannot offer a reason why because their study was not designed to answer this question. They also cannot speculate on whether vigorous exercise in white women would have any effect.

The 44,704 women who participated in the study were 30 years or age or older.
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The National Cancer Institute has funded the Black Women's Health Study since its inception in 1995. Lynn Rosenberg, ScD, a professor of epidemiology at Boston University, is co-leader of the study.

About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Georgetown Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute (grant #P30 CA051008), and the only one in the Washington, DC area. For more information, go to http://lombardi.georgetown.edu.

About Georgetown University Medical Center


Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC's mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Georgetown University Medical Center

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