Exercise for breast cancer survival: the effect on cancer risk and cancer-related fatigue (CRF)

Hewitt, JA, Mokbel, K, Van Someren, KA, Jewell, AP and Garrod, R (2005) Exercise for breast cancer survival: the effect on cancer risk and cancer-related fatigue (CRF). International Journal of Fertility and Womens Medicine, 50(5), pp. 231-239. ISSN (print) 1534-892X


To date, all epidemiological research in this area has focused on the relationship between physical activity level and the risk of breast cancer in healthy women, or more recently, those who have recovered from the disease. Most of this research highlights the fact that those women who are physically active are at a reduced risk of the disease. Although physical activity is similar to exercise, it lacks the specificity of a prescribed exercise training program. Consequently, such research can only be viewed as a promising indicator of the beneficial effect that regular exercise may have for breast cancer survivors. Furthermore, due to the nature of such research, there has been a failure to provide specific evidence concerning the most suitable modality, duration, intensity, and frequency of training for risk reduction in breast cancer survivors. Thus, evidence aiding the correct prescription of exercise for this population has been lacking. More promising evidence is provided by randomized controlled trials, which examine the effect of exercise on specific risk factors and provide convincing scientific rationale for the use of exercise among breast cancer survivors. These studies not only provide understanding of the physiological mechanisms by which exercise can be effective at aiding a reduction in breast cancer risk, but also allow conclusions on the correct prescription to be drawn. Additionally, exercise has proven to be effective in combating cancer-related fatigue (CRF), significantly improving both quality of life outcomes (QOL) and physiological capacity in women who have survived breast cancer. In order to promote a wider understanding of the beneficial effect that exercise holds for this population regarding reduction of breast cancer risk and CRF, this review discusses this research, making conclusions regarding the necessary training prescription to elicit such benefits.

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