According to a study published this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology regular exercise helps relieve arthritic joint pain associated with aromatase inhibitor (AI) drugs used to treat breast cancer.1

Aromatase inhibitors are widely used in the treatment of estrogen receptor positive early and late stage breast cancer, and can also reduce the likelihood of breast cancer occurring in high risk individuals.2

Aromatase inhibitors block the conversion of androgens to estrogen, and reduce estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. Currently, three anti-aromatase drugs are approved for the treatment of postmenopausal women with breast cancer: Femara® (letrozole) Arimidex® (anastrozole), and Aromasin® (exemestane).3,4,5 Femara and Arimidex are nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors that bind reversibly to aromatase. Aromasin is a steroidal aromatase inhibitor that binds permanently to aromatase.

Although aromatase inhibitors such as Aromasin® provide breast cancer benefits, these drugs have also been reported to adversely affect bone; the use of Aromasin® by healthy postmenopausal women increases bone loss and joint pain is a well documented complaint of many women.

In the current study published online, researchers at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven performed a clinical study that assigned breast cancer patients receiving an AI who reported joint pain to begin an exercise program or engage in usual activity. The exercise program consisted of 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise and twice-weekly supervised strength training.

The researchers found that “worst joint pain scores” decreased by 29% in the exercise group and actually increased in the usual-care group. The researchers reported that “exercise led to improvement in AI-induced arthralgia in previously inactive breast cancer survivors.” This study offers a solution to the many women requiring treatment with an AI suffering from joint plan and offers them a way forward to continue therapy and enjoy better health through moderate exercise.


  1. Irwin M, Cartmel B, Gross C, et al. Randomized Exercise Trial of Aromatase Inhibitor–Induced Arthralgia in Breast Cancer Survivors. J of Clin Oncol. December 10, 2014, 32 (35).
  2. Goss PE, Ingle JN, Ales-Martinez JE et al. Exemestane for breast-cancer prevention in postmenopausal women. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364:2381-91.
  3. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Oncology Tools Approval Summary for Femara® for Treatment of advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Accessed March 29, 2002.
  4. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Oncology Tools Approval Summary for Arimidex® for Treatment of advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women with disease progression following Nolvadex® therapy.  Accessed March 29, 2002.
  5. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Oncology Tools Approval Summary for Aromasin® for Treatment of advance breast cancer in postmenopausal women whose disease has progressed following Nolvadex® therapy. Accessed March 29, 2002.

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