University of Calgary


October 27, 2010

Women move to battle cancer

Researcher Dr Christine Friedenreich with trial participants Val Fitch and Mehret Negusse (centre) at Westside Recreation Complex.Researcher Dr Christine Friedenreich with trial participants Val Fitch and Mehret Negusse (centre) at Westside Recreation Complex.Courtesy of the Faculty of Medicine

Hundreds of post-menopausal Alberta women are needed to take part in a ground-breaking study that will help in the fight against breast cancer.

The Breast Cancer and Exercise Trial in Alberta (BETA) is trying to determine what amount of exercise post-menopausal women need to reduce their risk of breast cancer.

The study is an extension to the ALPHA (Alberta Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Prevention) Trial which found that previously inactive postmenopausal women can experience biological changes to their bodies that lower their risk of breast cancer by following a moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise program.

The BETA trial is being led by the same team that ran the ALPHA trial: Dr. Christine Friedenreich, an Alberta Health Services cancer epidemiologist, Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions Senior Health Scholar and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Kerry Courneya, a University of Alberta professor. The trial is funded by Alberta Cancer Foundation.

"This study will be instrumental in improving public health from a cancer prevention perspective," says Friedenreich. "Some international agencies that develop guidelines for cancer prevention are already recommending higher doses of exercise than the usual five days a week of 30 minutes per session that public health guidelines suggest."

Now the focus is on pinpointing exactly how much exercise is required to maximize this reduction in breast cancer risk.

The first participant to sign up for the trial, Val Fitch, 61, of Calgary, says the research is important not only for the impact on battling cancer, but also for increasing general personal wellbeing. Both of her parents had cancer, which made her question her own health.

"We can do so much for our own health if we take responsible. There is going to be 330 participants in the BETA trial; they will talk to people and word will spread. It will be a good way to emphasize the need for people over 50 to exercise regularly."

The trial's oldest participant, 74-year-old Sheila Stanley of Calgary, swam and walked for most of her life but found that regular activity gradually dropped away.

She and her husband, who has survived prostate cancer, were looking for ways to stay fit, so was excited to learn of the BETA trial.

"I eat healthy food, but I knew I should get moving and this was my opportunity. I don't want breast cancer. If I can do exercise to help, then I will."

The BETA trial needs 330 women. As many as 3,000 women will need to be assessed to get enough eligible candidates.

Volunteers must be post-menopausal, non-smokers, aged 50-74, based in Calgary or Edmonton and not currently exercising. Participants cannot be taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) nor have any previous cancer diagnosis.

Once selected, participants will be randomized into two groups; one doing 150 minutes of exercise per week, the other 300 minutes per week.

During the year-long trial, biological changes as a result of exercise will be measured.

To enroll, phone 403.521.3532, e-mail or visit

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