Senior Women Who
Survive Breast Cancer Have a Greater Risk of Falling
may affect balance, says new study in Archives of Physical Medicine
March 10, 2011
Researchers have found that women who are senior citizens and survived
breast cancer appear to fall more often than their peers. They note that
the combined effects of chemotherapy and endocrine therapy may increase
the risk of bone fractures in breast cancer survivors.
found that 58% of breast cancer survivors had experienced a fall in the
previous year and almost half (47%) fell within 6 months after joining
the study, a rate nearly double the 25% to 30% annual fall rate reported
for community-dwelling older adults over 65 years of age.
from the Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute,
Portland, asked post-menopausal breast cancer survivors whether they had
fallen in the past year and then tracked their falls over a six-month
measured a comprehensive set of neuromuscular and balance
characteristics known to be associated with falls in 59 study
participants. They found that only balance discriminated breast cancer
survivors who fell from those who did not.
findings also suggest that the balance problems may have been related to
changes in the vestibular system that is associated with chemotherapy
system beginning in the inner ear is responsible for maintaining
balance, posture, and the body's orientation in space, according to
MedicineNet.com. This system also regulates locomotion and other
movements and keeps objects in visual focus as the body moves. The
system also includes parts of the brain that respond to information from
the vestibular apparatus in the inner ear.
The study is
scheduled for publication in the April issue of the Archives of
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
"Our study is
the first to consider how breast cancer treatment may increase fall risk
by using a comprehensive set of objective measures of fall risk and by
exploring mediators of the treatment-falls relationship," commented
Kerri M. Winters-Stone, PhD, Associate Professor and Associate
Scientist, Oregon Health & Science University, School of Nursing and a
member of the Knight Cancer Institute.
suggest that recently treated postmenopausal breast cancer survivors
have higher rates of falling compared with population averages for
community-dwelling older adults. Balance disturbances may explain how
treatment could have contributed to falls in breast cancer survivors."
She also added,
"Falls in breast cancer survivors are understudied and deserve more
attention, particularly in light of the increase in fractures after
breast cancer treatment and the relationship of falls to fractures. Our
findings add to growing evidence that fall risk is increased in breast
cancer survivors and that vestibular function may underpin associations
between breast cancer treatment and falls."
Links to More Archived Reports on
Senior Citizens and Risk of Falls