Purpose: The Exercise for Health trials were randomised, controlled trials designed to evaluate an 8-month pragmatic exercise intervention, commencing 6 weeks post-surgery for women with newly diagnosed breast cancer residing in urban or rural/regional Australia. For these exploratory analyses, the primary and secondary outcomes were overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS), respectively. Methods: Consenting urban- (n = 194) and rural/regional-residing women (n = 143) were randomised to exercise (intervention delivered face-to-face or by telephone) or usual care. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for survival outcomes (exercise group, n = 207, 65% urban women; usual care group, n = 130, 46% urban women). Results: After a median follow-up of 8.3 years, there were 11 (5.3%) deaths in the exercise group compared with 15 (11.5%) deaths in the usual care group (OS HR for the exercise group: 0.45, 95% CI 0.20–0.96; p = 0.04). DFS events for the exercise versus usual care group were 25 (12.1%) and 23 (17.7%), respectively (HR: 0.66, 95% CI 0.38–1.17; p = 0.16). HRs for OS favoured exercise irrespective of age, body mass index, stage of disease, intervention compliance, and physical activity levels at 12 months post-diagnosis, although were stronger (p < 0.05) for younger women, women with stage II + disease, women with 1 + comorbidity at time of diagnosis, higher intervention compliance and for those who met national physical activity guidelines at 12 months post-diagnosis. Conclusion: An exercise intervention delivered during and beyond treatment for breast cancer, and that was designed to cater for all women irrespective of place of residence and access to health services, has clear potential to benefit survival. Trial numbers: ACT RN: 012606000233527; ACT RN: 12609000809235.
- Breast cancer
- Physical activity