Breast Cancer Survival and the Boob Tube

Breast cancer survival not affected by television watching

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Watching television and other passive screen activities have been linked to obesity. The act of being inactive and the time devoted to these in-activities are the issue. So does watching the boob tube impact breast cancer survival?

A new study has shown that watching a lot of television is not associated with higher death rates among breast cancer survivors. After looking at levels of physical activity, television viewing was not a risk factor for death.

"Try to move at least 20 minutes a day."

These are the findings of a study led by Stephanie George, PhD, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute.

Consistent physical activity has long been recommended for women to improve their odds of successfully thriving after breast cancer. Being sedentary has been linked to higher risks of death for these women. Dr. George and her colleagues sought to explore and confirm how levels of physical activity impact survival.

Researchers enrolled 687 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer 2-½ years earlier to participate in the Health, Eating and Lifestyle (HEAL) Study.

The women were surveyed about how much time they spent watching television and the other types of physical activity they engaged in during the previous year. Participants recorded how long and how often they performed these other activities. Researchers followed the study members for seven years.

Dr. George and colleagues collected and analyzed information about each participant, including disease stage and treatment details. Upon enrollment, researchers recorded body mass index (BMI – ratio of height and weight), menopause status, use of post-surgical hormone therapy and other medical conditions the women were experiencing.

Women who watched the most television tended to be older, more overweight and less active than women who spent the least amount of time in front of TV. There were more deaths among the most avid TV watchers compared to those who viewed the least amount of television.

This association became statistically insignificant when physical activity and other risk factors were taken into account.

Dr. George concluded in a statement, "It is possible that there is no true independent relationship between post-diagnosis television time and death. HEAL survivors who reported the most television time also reported the equivalent of 140 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity - which is the amount recommended to all adults for general health. Perhaps with this amount of recreational activity, television time may not have an independent effect on survival."

The authors wrote, “These results begin an evidence base on this topic that can be built upon to inform lifestyle recommendations for this expanding, aging population.”

This study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. No funding or financial information was publicly available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 3, 2013
Last Updated:
February 4, 2013