A new Australian study has launched to look into the effects of exercise on breast cancer.
Dr Brigid Lynch, a Cancer Council Victoria researcher, received a four-year Fellowship from the National Breast Cancer Foundation to investigate how exercise and sedentary lifestyle may affect the risk of developing the disease, along with their impact on health outcomes after diagnosis.
Participants will be given an accelerometer – similar to a pedometer – to track their exercise and sitting time.
“The survival benefit associated with regular physical activity is considerable,” Dr Lynch says.
“But I anticipate that we’ll also find that periods of prolonged sitting will be associated with increased breast cancer risk.”
The wider health benefits of spending less time in a seated position have received increased attention in recent months, resulting in some workplaces beginning to offer alternative options.
“We’ve seen changes already where employees are given adaptable sit-stand workstations,” says Dr Lynch.
“And communal spaces might have bench space so people can stand up to have a meeting or a cup of tea.”
Having said that, society is still chiefly geared towards seated activities.
“Most offices are still very much based on a desk and a chair, people sitting at a computer for 8 or 9 hours a day. And then often people will drive home, and sit and watch TV. Even going for dinner or to the theatre – it all involves a lot of sitting.”
Dr Lynch hopes the findings of this study will help encourage further change.
“We can use the objective information we gather to look at how it relates to biomarkers of breast cancer risk and from those associations, get a better idea of what the optimal dose of exercise is.”
This research was made possible with funding from the Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic which, this year, will pass the $25 million mark in money raised for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
For researchers like Dr Lynch, this ongoing support is vital.
“I’m so grateful,” she says.
“Results aren’t achieved quickly or easily – it takes time to collect data and come up with answers. Having consistent funding for four years really enables me to do that.
“In other situations, people put in a lot of hard work but then don’t have the funding to finish things off, and that’s a real tragedy.”