Breast cancer survivors move forward


Moving forward — that’s what researchers at the Institute for Health Research and Policy want to help African American breast cancer survivors do.

Moving Forward is also the name of a community-based weight loss program to improve their survival rate.

African American women exhibit higher breast cancer mortality rates than white women; in Chicago the breast cancer mortality rate for black women is 116 percent higher than the rate for white women, says Melinda Stolley, principal investigator of the study and institute researcher.

Researchers will determine if the program is effective in decreasing body mass index and weight and improving diet and physical activity habits. They are also evaluating the effect of weight loss on blood pressure, cholesterol and quality of life.

Poor diet, lack of physical activity and obesity contribute to breast cancer progression and may intensify other conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, Stolley said.

“One of the cruel things about being diagnosed with breast cancer is that most women gain weight post-treatment — on average 5 to 7 pounds — which is not fully understood. We want to target African American women because nearly 78 percent of African American women are overweight or obese.”

African American breast cancer survivors who have completed treatment at least six months ago, are overweight, are physically able to participate in moderate physical activity and are not currently in a structured weight loss program may be eligible to participate in the study.

Physical activity has been shown to improve survival in breast cancer patients, Stolley said, but there has been little research on weight loss in African American breast cancer survivors.

UIC partnered with the Chicago Park District to conduct the program in several neighborhoods throughout the city.

The goal of the weight loss intervention is to address health behavior change at an individual level while acknowledging the importance of culture, family lifestyles, community traditions and social support, Stolley explained.

A pilot study “was effective in significantly reducing dietary fat and significantly increasing vegetable intake, vigorous activity, and social support,” she said — women in the pilot study lost five and a half pounds during the six-month program.

Women in the program will receive a free 12-month membership to a participating park district location where they will attend twice weekly exercise and educational sessions. Participants in the control group will learn about general health topics. At the end of the program, all participants will receive a 12-month free membership to the Chicago Park District.

For more information, contact Moving Forward at 312-996-6880 or

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