Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Staff Member Helps Design Studies to Confirm Hypothesis
DALLAS – May 14, 2009 – While many experts suspect being overweight, eating an unhealthy diet or being physically inactive can increase the incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer, the theory has been difficult to actually prove. But a top Susan G. Komen for the Cure® scientific staff member has just published an article in a leading scientific journal detailing how such proof can be obtained.
Many studies have pointed to an association between weight control, physical activity and breast cancer, but uncertainty persists because many other factors, such as menopausal status and age can affect this association, according to Marianne H. Alciati, Ph.D., managing executive director of scientific operations for Komen for the Cure and one of the authors of the commentary entitled “Physical Activity, Weight Control, and Breast Cancer Risk and Survival: Clinical Trial Rationale and Design Considerations” published in the May 6, 2009 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Other authors include Rachel Ballard-Barbash, Sally Hunsberger, Steven N. Blair, Pamela J. Goodwin, Anne McTiernan, Rena Wing and Arthur Schatzkin.
“Well-designed clinical trials provide the basis for saving lives, and this paper provides the details for trials that could provide the evidence needed for wide-scale adoption of new prevention and treatment management approaches,” Alciati said. “Both the prevention and survivorship trials evaluate biomarkers that might mediate the relationship between weight control, physical activity and breast cancer, providing important insights into the basis for these protective effects."
Two clinical trials are presented -- a prevention trial among asymptomatic women and a survivorship trial among breast cancer survivors -- and the authors detail requirements for both. Several factors favor conducting the survivorship trial: it could bring answers more quickly, would require fewer women and it would be easier to identify women to participate in the trial.
The authors also wrote that the public health impact of either trial could be significant because there are currently so few proven lifestyle changes that can improve a woman’s chances of not getting breast cancer or avoiding a recurrence and because the number of women 50 and older continues to rise.
“There are very few things that we know with certainty a woman can do to reduce her risk for breast cancer. Evidence supports a role for weight control and physical activity in reducing breast cancer risk, but other factors are at play - age, menopausal status, use of hormone therapy,” Alciati said. “It is essential that we understand who will most benefit and give women more tools that they can use to reduce their risk for getting breast cancer or for survivors, reduce their risk for recurrence.”