Nutrition and physical activity influence on breast cancer incidence and outcome

Breast. 2013 Aug;22 Suppl 2:S30-7. doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2013.07.006.


Introduction and aims: To provide a current perspective on nutrition and physical activity influence on breast cancer.

Methods and results: A comprehensive literature review was conducted and selective presentation of findings follows. While some observational studies have associated higher dietary fat intake with higher breast cancer incidence, two full-scale randomized, clinical trials of dietary fat intake reduction programs were negative. However, a lifestyle intervention targeting fat intake reduction in the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS), resulted in weight loss and also reduced breast cancer recurrences in women with early stage disease. Observational studies evaluating specific nutrient intakes and dietary supplements have provided mixed results. Several observational studies find women with early stage breast cancer with lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels at higher recurrence risk, a finding requiring cautious interpretation. The lifestyle factor most strongly and consistently associated with both breast cancer incidence and breast cancer recurrence risk is physical activity. A meta-analyses of observational studies supports the concept that moderate recreational physical activity (about 3-4 h walking per week) may reduce breast cancer incidence and that women with early stage breast cancer who increased or maintain their physical activity may have lower recurrence risk as well. Feasibility of achieving increased physical activity and weight loss in women with early-stage breast cancer has been established. Two full-scale randomized clinical trials are evaluating weight loss/maintenance and increased physical activity in relation to recurrence risk in women with early-stage, resected breast cancer.

Discussion/conclusions: Dietary intake may influence breast cancer but influence is difficult to separate from influence of body weight. A consistent body of observational study evidence suggests higher physical activity has favorable influence on breast cancer incidence and outcome. While awaiting definitive evidence from ongoing randomized trials, breast cancer patients can reasonably be counseled to avoid weight gain and reduce body weight if overweight or obese and increase or maintain a moderate level of physical activity.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Dietary pattern; Nutrition; Physical activity; Vitamins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Style
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status / physiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Primary Prevention / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Analysis
  • Weight Gain