Diet and exercise can affect the results of breast cancer treatment

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A new study from Yale Cancer Center presents promising data suggesting that a targeted diet and exercise intervention may be able to improve outcomes for women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

The study addresses the common challenge of adherence to treatment due to the adverse side effects often associated with chemotherapy.

The intervention

Led by Tara Sanft, MD, and senior author Melinda Irwin, Ph.D. Researchers provided newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with specific interventions targeting diet and exercise.

These interventions aimed to mitigate the negative side effects of chemotherapy and encourage patients to adhere to their treatment plans.

The intervention included regular counseling sessions focusing on healthy eating practices and physical activities.

The team observed that women who took part in the intervention reported an increase in exercise and fruit and vegetable consumption.

Surprising findings

Although the main goal was to improve the completion rate of chemotherapy, measured as relative dose intensity (RDI), the study revealed an unexpected but exciting result.

Surprisingly, 53% of women in the intervention group experienced a pathological complete reaction (PCR), indicating the complete disappearance of all invasive cancer cells in the breast.

In contrast, only 28% of women in the control group achieved the same result.

Melinda Irwin noted: “Further explanation is needed as this was not the primary outcome of our study, but there is an exciting possibility that diet and exercise may influence chemotherapy outcomes through factors other than just the amount of chemotherapy completed.”

It’s never too late to start

Sanft, also medical director of the Survivorship Clinic at Smilow Cancer Hospital, emphasized that the results show that patients can adopt healthier habits even during cancer treatment.

“Even at diagnosis, it is not too late for oncologists to recommend these healthy behaviors to patients,” she said.


While more research is needed to fully understand how diet and exercise can directly impact chemotherapy outcomes, this study paves the way for a holistic approach to cancer treatment.

It also opens up new research opportunities to understand how lifestyle factors can interact with medical treatments to produce better outcomes.

The study’s results have the potential to profoundly influence recommendations for managing chemotherapy side effects and could lead to more widespread implementation of lifestyle intervention programs in cancer treatment protocols.

If diet and exercise can make chemotherapy not only more tolerable but also more effective, then this offers a new tool in the fight against breast cancer.

If cancer is important to you, please read studies showing that mammograms overdiagnose one in seven breast cancers in the U.S. and what new ways there are to increase the life expectancy of cancer survivors.

For more on cancer, check out recent studies of sweeteners linked to increased cancer risk, as well as results showing new ways to boost cancer-fighting T cells.

The research results can be found in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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