Utilization of Complementary Alternative Medicine, Diet, and Exercise Among Women at High Risk for Developing Breast Cancer

Integr Cancer Ther. Jan-Dec 2020;19:1534735420922610. doi: 10.1177/1534735420922610.


Background: Women diagnosed as having a high risk for breast cancer (HR-BC) often seek different health behaviors (HBs) such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), diet, and exercise to improve their health and cancer outcome. Methods: Women already enrolled in a multimodality screening study for patients at HR-BC (gene mutation carrier or >20% cumulative lifetime risk) were given a questionnaire to evaluate their use of CAM therapies, diet, and exercise before and after a diagnosis of HR-BC. Patients were also asked to complete the Short-Form 36, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Beck Depression Inventory. Results: A total of 134 (67%) subjects completed the survey from the original cohort. General characteristics included a median age of 46 years (range = 24-73 years), majority were White (91%), BRCA1/2 gene mutation carrier (49%), and prior diagnosis of breast and/or ovarian cancer (30%). Almost all of the patients reported a lifetime prevalence of any HB (97%) and CAM utilization (91%). Subjects also had a high lifetime utilization of exercise (83%), herbs and supplements(72%), and diet programs (58%). All of these HBs declined in utilization after diagnosis of HR-BC by as much as 30%. After diagnosis of a HR-BC, a personal history of breast and/or ovarian cancer was significantly correlated with increased use of CAM (odds ratio [OR] = 5.9, P < .01), herbs and supplements (OR = 4.3, P < .01), and diet program (OR = 4.4, P < .01) in multivariate analysis. Conclusions: HBs such as CAM, diet, and exercise are highly prevalent among women with HR-BC, and the utilization of HB decreases significantly after diagnosis of HR-BC.

Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine; diet; exercise; high risk for breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult