Separate recent studies have underlined the importance of exercise and physical activity in fighting cancer. Importantly, the research showed that exercise not only helps with cancer prevention, it also helps with improving the prognosis of those already diagnosed with cancer, as well as with boosting the life expectancy of cancer survivors who had previously beaten the disease.
For example, a recent large study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention had looked at 73,615 postmenopausal women for 17 years and found that different degrees of physical activity lowered breast cancer risk by varying amounts.
The women who took part in the highest levels of physical activity were 25 percent less likely to develop breast cancer as compared to those with the lowest levels of physical activity. This finding was quite consistent with previous studies.
Significantly, even the women who walked an average of at least seven hours per week had 14 percent lower breast cancer risk than women who only walked three hours or fewer each week. This was after factors such as BMI and hormone use were accounted for. Walking an hour a day should not be too difficult for most people.
Also notable was that the women with the highest levels of physical activity generally took part in moderate intensity exercises such as walking, aerobics, dancing and cycling. Since moderate exercise was more effective than just walking, it is probable that higher intensity exercises such as running, tennis and swimming could further lower cancer risk.
Previous research had shown that prostate cancer sufferers who engaged in physical activity were less likely to die of the condition and to suffer relapses as compared to men who did not exercise.
Another recent study validated this finding by suggesting that men who walked at a fast pace had prostate cancer tumors which had bigger and more regularly shaped blood vessels as compared to those who walked at a slower pace – and this, as shown in previous research, meant that the tumors were less aggressive and more responsive to treatments. The study had looked at 572 prostate cancer sufferers who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
The study’s findings suggested that exercise as basic as brisk walking could boost the survival rates of prostate cancer sufferers.
Previous research had revealed that the most physically active cancer survivors had a 38 percent lower chance of dying from cancer and a 48 percent lower chance of dying from cardiovascular conditions.
And researchers from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine recently validated those findings when they looked at 1,021 men who were part of the Harvard’s Alumni Health Study. The study team found that cancer survivors who used more than 12,600 calories per week through exercise had better life expectancy as compared to those who hardly exercised and only used less than 2,100 calories each week. After adjustments for age, early parental death, smoking and weight, the likelihood of dying of any cause was reduced by a very significant 48 percent.
“Physical activity should be actively promoted to such individuals to enhance longevity,” said Dr Kathlee Wolin, a co-author of the study.
Put together, such studies show that regular exercise not only improves the life expectancy of healthy people and helps prevent cancer, it also boosts the lifespan of those with cancer as well as those who had previously survived cancer. Although some studies only focused on specific cancers, it is reasonable to infer that the benefits of exercise would apply to most types.
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