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06-04-2011 | Oncology | Article

Poor physical health may indicate worse breast cancer outcome


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MedWire News: Improving the physical health of breast cancer survivors may reduce their risk for recurrence and death, researchers reported at the American Association for Cancer Research 102nd Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

The team found that women with a "poor" physical health score (PHS) on the short-form-36 (SF-36) survey had a greater risk for breast cancer recurrence and death than those with "adequate" physical health.

John Pierce from the University of California San Diego, USA, and team used data from the Women's Healthy Eating and Living Study, the Nurses' Health Study, and the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study to analyze the association between poor physical health and breast cancer outcome.

Pierce explained that the SF-36 PHS includes information about how an individual perceives their own physical functioning, bodily pain, and limitations caused by physical problems, and is known to be a marker for a number of co-morbidities.

In all, 9387 women completed the survey shortly after they were diagnosed with early stage (I-III) breast cancer. They were then followed-up for a median period of 7.8 years.

Pierce reported that about half of the women met the survey definition of poor physical health. These women had a 27% increased risk for breast cancer recurrence and a 65% increased risk for death compared with women in better physical health.

In addition, poor physical health was strongly associated with a higher body mass index and a greater risk for insomnia.

Women with poor physical health also had 50% higher prevalence of high blood pressure and diabetes, and were twice as likely to have arthritis relative to women with adequate physical health.

Pierce said that the study shows that "[risk] variables cluster together and are summarized in the physical health score."

By addressing this cluster of health concerns, clinicians can help women improve their health, feel better about their lives and reduce associated breast cancer risks, according to Pierce.

"Interventions to improve the PHS and prognosis might target weight control, physical activity and sleep management," he concluded.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Laura Dean

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