Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Breast Cancer News (8/2): Vitamin D and Exercise

There's more to breast cancer care than surgery, radiation and drugs. Complementary therapies and lifestyle choices can affect risk, recovery and quality of life. It's an aspect of prevention and care that women can control. Today we'll look at the latest breast cancer research on vitamin D and exercise.

Vitamin D for breast cancer side effects, risk and prognosis

The vitamin D page of the LATESTBreastCancer.com website is full of links to news and research on breast cancer side effects, risk and prognosis. Today, we'll discuss the most recent studies.

Vitamin D for aromatase inhibitor muscle and joint pain

A June 21 study in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment found that high doses of vitamin D reduced the muscle and joint pain associated with aromatase inhibitor therapy. On July 26, Washington University in St. Louis released a detailed written news story and video about the study.

Does exposure to solar vitamin D decrease breast cancer risk?

Recent studies on vitamin D from sun exposure and breast cancer risk are contradictory. On one hand, a June 6 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology determined that exposure to solar vitamin D during adolescence resulted in a lower risk of breast cancer. A June 28 article on the UK National Health Service Choices website provides a detailed analysis of the study.

On the other end of the spectrum, (no pun intended), the findings of a July 23 study in the European Journal of Cancer "contradict that vitamin D production through extensive sun exposure has any protective effect on internal cancer but emphasise the increased risk for skin cancer." In that study, the risk of breast and other internal cancers was calculated for Swedish women with basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which is typically associated with extensive sun exposure. The authors found that women with BCC had an increased risk of other forms of cancer, including breast cancer, prior to the BCC diagnosis.

Why are study results inconsistent? The answer may be that people are genetically different. Much as tamoxifen only treats hormone receptor positive breast cancer, vitamin D may only reduce risk in those with specific genetic characteristics. A June 21 study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention evaluated whether genetic variations might explain why vitamin D is associated with breast cancer risk reduction in some but not others. The study concluded, "Variation in vitamin D-related genotypes may help to explain inconsistent results from previous epidemiologic studies and may lead to targeted prevention strategies."

Serum vitamin D levels and breast cancer prognosis

Recent studies suggest that low serum (blood) levels of vitamin D at diagnosis may be associated with a worse prognosis.

A July 26 Breast Cancer Research study found that low concentrations of serum vitamin D before the start of chemotherapy "may be associated with poorer overall survival and distant disease-free survival in postmenopausal breast cancer patients." In the study, 1,295 German postmenopausal breast cancer patients were followed a median of 5.8 years after diagnosis.

Back on April 29, US News and World Report covered a similar study which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. In that study, "[r]esearchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center found an association between low vitamin D levels (less than 32 milligrams per milliliter of blood) and poor scores on every major biological marker used to predict a breast cancer patient's outcome."

Exercise and breast cancer side effects and survival

Exercise to reduce side effects

Most of the links on the exercise page of our website associate exercise with the reduction of breast cancer treatment side effects for survivors.

A recent Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine study found that core stability exercise and massage reduced "fatigue, tension and depression and improved vigor and muscle strength" for breast cancer survivors.

A July 11 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise concluded that resistance training alone improved physical self esteem, which is based on conditioning, attractiveness and strength. Aerobic exercise improved physical conditioning. However, a combination aerobic and resistance program did not improve physical self esteem any greater than single modality programs.

Additional studies on exercise and breast cancer side effects were discussed in the July 7 issue of our blog.

Exercise to improve survival

We know there is evidence that exercise can improve quality of life for survivors, but does exercise after diagnosis affect breast cancer survival? The findings of a July 27 study in Cancer Prevention Research "suggest that exercise after breast cancer diagnosis may improve overall and disease-free survival." This is an exciting area of research that we will be sure to follow.

Please check back tomorrow for more breast cancer research news highlights. Until then, please check our website for the latest news and research on other breast cancer complementary therapies and lifestyle options.

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