"My prayer every day is to find a cure for cancer."
Bernyce Edwards's daughter, Beverly, was 42 when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. With her immune system weakened by chemotherapy, Beverly died from pneumonia three months later. "It's about as low as a person can get, to lose a child," said Edwards.
"I was so angry," Edwards said. "Out of that, after the anger, came the determination to do what I could to help find a solution." Her opportunity came via a Hutchinson Center study examining whether exercise can reduce a woman's risk of getting breast cancer.
Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Physical Activity for Total Health (PATH) study was led by Dr. Anne McTiernan, a member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division. PATH involved over 170 previously sedentary, overweight, postmenopausal Seattle-area women who were randomly assigned to one of two exercise groups. One group was taught aerobic and weight-training exercises. The other group focused on stretching techniques.
Edwards was about 20 pounds overweight when she was assigned to the study's aerobic/weightlifting group. By the end of the study, she had lost nearly 13 pounds.
Overall, members of the aerobic/weightlifting group achieved significant reductions in weight, total body fat and, most importantly, intra-abdominal fat, which can raise insulin levels, cause heart disease and diabetes and promote the growth of cancer cells. "This study gives us direct evidence that exercise can affect biology related to cancer and other chronic diseases in older women," McTiernan said.
Edwards praises McTiernan and the Hutchinson Center for taking such a strong interest in breast-cancer research. "My prayer every day is to find a cure for cancer," Edwards said.
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