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Penn study examines power of exercise to prevent breast cancer
Date:4/2/2009

(PHILADELPHIA) A new federally funded University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine study aims to learn whether women at high risk of breast cancer can use exercise to meaningfully reduce their risk of getting the disease. Building on evidence that reducing estrogen in the body reduces cancer risk, and that elite female athletes experience a drop in estrogen levels that often cause them to stop ovulating and menstruating, the WISER Sister trial will investigate two different levels of regular treadmill exercise as a possible intervention for breast cancer risk reduction.

The stakes for women who carry BRCA genetic mutations are high as many as 80 percent of them will develop breast or ovarian cancer during their lives but options for risk reduction are drastic and few, and the choices may be unacceptable to some women. Previous Penn research shows that prophylactic mastectomy slashes carriers' breast cancer risk by 90 percent, while prophylactic oophorectomy, or ovary removal, halves their breast cancer risk and reduces their chances of getting of ovarian cancer by about 85 to 90 percent. Though the surgeries are highly effective, they usher in quality of life concerns particularly with regard to body image and sexuality and the early menopause that results from ovary removal brings a woman's childbearing years to an end. And the procedures aren't recommended for women who have a family history of breast cancer but don't carry the mutated genes.

"The decision to have these surgeries is so difficult that many women delay them, sometimes with terrible consequences. We would like to find out if exercise could buy high-risk women time they need to more safely think through their options," says Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics who is leading the new study, in partnership with Susan Domchek, MD, director of the Abramson Cancer Center's Cancer Risk Evaluation Program. "
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5659
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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