Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Breast Cancer News (8/17): Race, Risk, Exercise and Music Therapy

Why do African Americans have a greater risk of ER/PR negative breast cancer? What's the minimum amount of exercise needed to improve survival? How can music help cancer patients? Today's top news stories address these questions.

Childbirth and breastfeeding linked to the risk of ER/PR negative breast cancer in African Americans

Recent research has revealed a higher incidence of estrogen receptor (ER) negative and progesterone receptor (PR) negative breast cancer subtypes among African Americans. (A May 12 study in Clinical Cancer Research found a "2-fold greater frequency".)

Yesterday, a Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention study, covered by the Los Angeles Times and US News and World Report, asked, "Why?"

The answer may relate to childbearing and breastfeeding. Comparing pathology reports to Black Women's Health Study questionnaires, researchers found that African American women who gave birth to more children were more likely to develop ER/PR negative breast cancer, and had a reduced risk of ER/PR positive cancer. However, among women who breastfed, having more children was "no longer associated" with a higher incidence of ER/PR negative cancer, and the reduced risk of ER/PR positive cancer remained. The authors conclude that the higher incidence of ER/PR negative breast cancer in African Americans may be explained in part by a higher number of childbirths and lower prevalence of breastfeeding relative to Caucasians. "Increased breastfeeding may lead to a reduction in the incidence of this breast cancer subtype."

15 minutes of exercise a day reduces cancer risk and improves survival

Can just 15 minutes of exercise a day reduce cancer risk and improve survival? According to an August 16 study from Taiwan in The Lancet, yes. The study and a Reuters news story may be found on the exercise page of the website.

The study explored the minimum amount of exercise needed to reduce mortality and increase life expectancy for all people, healthy or not. It found that compared to inactive people, those who had 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day had a 14% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 3 year longer life expectancy. According to the Reuters story, "Daily exercise was also linked to a lower incidence of cancer, and appeared to reduce cancer-related deaths in one person in ten."

More exercise was associated with more benefit. Every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise beyond the minimum reduced all-cause mortality by 4% and all-cancer mortality by 1%.

Music therapy reduces pain and anxiety for cancer patients

It seems obvious that music can be comforting to cancer patients. Are there any scientifically proven benefits? An August 10 Cochrane Library study reviewed the recent research on music therapy for cancer patients. Music was found to have beneficial effects on anxiety, pain, mood and quality of life. It may have "a small effect" on heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. The evidence did not support a benefit on fatigue or physical status.

According to Reuters, "it is not entirely clear" what type of music therapy helps patients most. Debra Burns, a music therapist, said she suspects that visits with a music therapist help more than listening to CDs.

Please check back tomorrow for more breast cancer news and research highlights. Until then, all the latest news and research on any breast cancer test, treatment option or complementary therapy may be found on the treatment pages of the website.

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