Effect of Exercise on Markers of Inflammation in Breast Cancer Survivors: The Yale Exercise and Survivorship Study

Physical activity is associated with improved breast cancer survival, but the underlying mechanisms, possibly including modification of the inflammatory state, are not well understood. We analyzed changes in interleukin (IL)-6, C-reactive protein (CRP), and TNF-α in a randomized controlled trial of exercise in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors. Seventy-five women, recruited through the Yale-New Haven Hospital Tumor Registry, were randomized to either a six-month aerobic exercise intervention or usual care. Correlations were calculated between baseline cytokines, adiposity, and physical activity measures. Generalized linear models were used to assess the effect of exercise on IL-6, CRP, and TNF-α. At baseline, IL-6 and CRP were positively correlated with body fat and body mass index (BMI) and were inversely correlated with daily pedometer steps (P < 0.001). We found no significant effect of exercise on changes in inflammatory marker concentrations between women randomized to exercise versus usual care, though secondary analyses revealed a significant reduction in IL-6 among exercisers who reached 80% of the intervention goal compared with those who did not. Future studies should examine the effect of different types and doses of exercise and weight loss on inflammatory markers in large-scale trials of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer Prev Res; 6(2); 109–18. ©2012 AACR.