Bone Health After Breast Cancer

One of the common goals we hear from cancer survivors after their treatment has ended is to “get back to optimal health”. When it comes to breast cancer treatment, there is clear evidence that decreases in bone mineral density due to treatment puts them at a higher risk for osteoporosis and fractures. At the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre, we work with breast cancer patients on supporting healthy bone mass to reduce their risk of fractures. The good news is there are natural and safe therapies to support bone density after breast cancer treatment.

A recent study evaluating the effects of soy consumption, body weight and exercise on rate of fractures in women following their breast cancer treatments found higher soy isoflavone intake was associated with lower osteroporotic fracture risk in pre/perimenopausal women. This study recommends to aim for 2 servings/day of minimally-processed soy products that can include: soy milk, tofu, edamame, and/or tempeh.

This study also demonstrates the benefits of both exercise and achieving a healthy body weight on bone health. The more exercise these women performed, the less their risk of bone fracture. Some exercise showed benefit for bone health however more exercise showed more benefit. Exercise showed most benefit in the post-menopausal group of women. The benefits of exercise on bone health was achieved by increasing muscle mass, increasing balance and coordination and reducing risk of falls.  Here the recommendation is to aim for 5-6 days per week for 30-60 minutes of aerobic/cardiovascular exercise and include weight bearing exercise 2-3 days per week.

Author: Christina Holmquist, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre intern