"Anti-cancer" life-style choices (nutrition, physical activity, stress management) reduce mortality from breast cancer by 45 percent.

A new study just published by the magazine CANCER (November 2008 issue) provides a great deal of food for thought. Researchers from Ohio State University have demonstrated that women undergoing treatment for breast-cancer, who followed a training program similar to the life-style changes that I describe in Anticancer: A New Way of Life, nutritional advice, more physical exercise and, especially, better stress management, saw their risk of dying fall in the following 11 years by 45 percent (see illustration below). The drop in mortality amounted to 68 percent when the small number of patients who abandoned the program early on were excluded from the statistics. The program constituted eight weekly sessions, followed by one monthly session over the course of a year.

It’s disturbing that major conferences on cancer treatment, such as the “First Convention of Society Against Cancer”, which will open this Sunday in Paris, continue to take place without mention of new scientific data provided by studies such as this. As detailed in my book Anticancer: A New Way of Life, new research emphasizes the impact of environment in cancer progression, and demonstrates that individual approaches may allow each of us to protect ourselves better from the disease, both as prevention and in order that we can benefit more extensively from treatment. I have just written to my medical colleagues, many of whom will be present at this weekend’s Convention as cancer specialists, to alert them to this latest study.

However, it seems to me that you – the people who are most affected – will also have to ask these questions, which are so often ignored by specialists, since many of them prefer to invest exclusively in methods of prevention and treatment that don’t throw doubt on our health-care systems and industrial practices.

So speak up, and pass this study around!

Proportion of patients who survived, from the onset of intervention, in the group of women who followed the training program and the control group, which didn’t receive training.

Note the improvement in survival rates of patients who benefited from training even after just two years.

This is the reference and abstract for Prof. Andersen’s study:

Andersen, B. et al. (2008) Psychologic Intervention Improves Survival for Breast Cancer Patients Cancer 2008;113:3450–8. copyright 2008 American Cancer Society.

BACKGROUND. The question of whether stress poses a risk for cancer progression has been difficult to answer. A randomized clinical trial tested the hypothesis that cancer patients coping with their recent diagnosis but receiving a psychologic intervention would have improved survival compared with patients who were only assessed. METHODS. A total of 227 patients who were surgically treated for regional breast cancer participated. Before beginning adjuvant cancer therapies, patients were assessed with psychologic and behavioral measures and had a health evaluation, and a 60-mL blood sample was drawn. Patients were randomized to Psychologic Intervention plus assessment or Assessment only study arms. The intervention was psychologist led; conducted in small groups; and included strategies to reduce stress, improve mood, alter health behaviors, and maintain adherence to cancer treatment and care. Earlier articles demonstrated that, compared with the Assessment arm, the Intervention arm improved across all of the latter secondary outcomes. Immunity was also enhanced. RESULTS. After a median of 11 years of follow-up, disease recurrence was reported to occur in 62 of 212 (29%) women and death was reported for 54 of 227 (24%) women. Using Cox proportional hazards analysis, multivariate comparison of survival was conducted. As predicted, patients in the Intervention arm were found to have a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence (hazards ratio (HR) of 0.55; P 5.034) and death from breast cancer (HR of 0.44; P 5.016) compared with patients in the Assessment only arm. Follow-up analyses also demonstrated that Intervention patients had a reduced risk of death from all causes (HR of 0.51; P 5.028). CONCLUSIONS. Psychologic interventions as delivered and studied here can improve survival.