Exercise benefits differ for ER- vs. ER+?

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Question from Crimson: How does the value of exercise differ if your breast cancer is estrogen-receptor-negative vs. positive?
Answers - Julie Gralow, M.D. In the Nurses' Study, they did look at estrogen receptors. and there was a trend towards more benefit in the women whose cancers were ER-positive. This doesn't mean there was not benefit in the patients who had ER-negative cancers.

Interestingly, talking about healthy lifestyle in general, there was a very important nutrition study that was done in women within a year of their diagnosis of breast cancer. It was called the WINS Study (Women's Intervention Nutrition Study), and they randomized women to receive nutritional counseling that primarily focused on a low-calorie, low-fat diet vs. standard of care. The counseling was just every two weeks with some literature backup.

At one year they proved the women who had had the counseling were eating less fat and had gained less weight. At five years, the study showed there were fewer breast cancer recurrences in that group who had gotten the counseling on a healthy diet. In that study, when you broke out the estrogen-receptor-positive and negative cancers, the benefit of the nutritional counseling seemed greater in the ER-negative group. I'm not sure that makes sense, so there might be some other explanation. I just encourage all my patients, no matter what, to eat healthy and get some physical exercise. Until we get this all straightened out, I'll recommend that to all patients.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Physical Activity and Breast Cancer featured Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., Julie Gralow, M.D., and moderator Judith Sachs answering your questions about the many issues related to physical activity and breast cancer.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in January 2006.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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