Are There Racial Differences in How Physical Activity Affects Breast Cancer Survival?

Grantee: Cher Dallal, PhD
Institution: University of Maryland, College Park
Area of Research: Cancer Control and Prevention: Psychosocial and Behavioral Research
Grant Term: 1/1/17 to 12/31/21

The Challenge: Research shows that Black women and White women are diagnosed with breast cancer at about the same rate. Yet, more Black women die from the disease. Research also shows that how long women live after a diagnosis with breast cancer is linked to how much time they spend being both physically active and sitting (being sedentary).

So far, though, there isn’t much information about the physical status (physiology) of White women after treatment for breast cancer to know why they have higher survival rates. Nor is there much known about how getting regular physical activity affects breast cancer survival. 

The Research: Cher Dallal, PhD, and her research team are trying to learn more. They’re studying postmenopausal breast cancer survivors who have completed treatment and who are wearing an activity monitor to track their activity behavior and levels. At the same time, they’ll have blood samples taken to see the effect that activity—or lack of it—has on physiology.

Dallal’s study group includes Black and White breast cancer survivors. What they expect to find is that there are racial differences in how activity level affects physiology.

To understand the physiology, the team is using the newer field of metabolomics, which looks at the substances produced when the body breaks down food, drugs, and hormones—called metabolites. 

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: Dallal’s work may help explain some differences in breast cancer survival.  It may also stimulate more research, which may ultimately help Black women with breast cancer live longer.