Exercise, healthy eating and good weight control may help improve survival of breast cancer patients, according to a large-scale review.

Researchers analyzed 85 studies that included more than 164,000 women worldwide and found that breast cancer patient survival may be associated with: a healthy weight, physical activity, eating foods with fiber and soy and lower fat intake, particularly saturated fat.

However, the report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund International's Continuous Update Project does say that currently available evidence is still not strong enough to make firm recommendations for breast cancer survivors.

The findings do support AICR recommendations that all cancer survivors eat a plant-based diet, maintain a healthy weight and get regular exercise.

"Although it is difficult to make specific recommendations, the research suggests that women who have a healthy weight and are physically active, both before and after they are diagnosed, have a better chance of surviving a diagnosis of breast cancer and of not getting a second primary breast cancer," Dr. Anne McTiernan, leader of the panel that wrote the report and a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said in an AICR news release.

"We need to know more about the effects of other factors on the associations between lifestyle and survival, including specific types of tumors, the stage at which a tumor is found, previous cancer treatment, and socioeconomic factors," she added.

Previous research has shown that a healthy weight lowers the risk for eight cancers, including postmenopausal breast cancer, according to the AICR.

"We know there are many reasons for women to eat a plant-based diet and be active, both for cancer prevention and overall health," Alice Bender, associate director for nutrition programs at AICR, said in the news release.

Proper diet, exercise, weight control among factors that may help,...

Proper diet, exercise, weight control among factors that may help, experts say Credit: HealthDay

"For survivors, start where you are and look for small changes you can make. For example, take advantage of the times you feel best to walk or move in some way. Use pre-chopped or frozen vegetables as an easy way to boost your healthy diet," she advised.

Each year in the United States, more than 232,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the AICR. Currently, there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, the AICR reported.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer.

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