Get Active to Lower Your Risk of 13 Cancers
A major new study looking at data on 1.44 million adults from Europe and the United States, has concluded that regular moderate to vigorous exercise reduces the risk of developing 13 different types of cancer.
The risk of developing seven cancer types was 20 percent (or more) lower among the most active participants (90th percentile of activity) as compared with the least active participants (10th percentile of activity).
Many previous studies have examined associations between physical activity and cancer risk and shown reduced risks for colon, breast, and endometrial cancers; however, results have been inconclusive for most cancer types due to small numbers of participants.
This new study pooled data on 1.44 million people, aged 19 to 98, and was able to examine a broad range of cancers, including rare malignancies. Participants were followed for a median of 11 years during which 187,000 new cases of cancer occurred.
The investigators confirmed that leisure-time physical activity, as assessed by self-reported surveys, was associated with a lower risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers.
They also determined a lower risk of 10 additional cancers, with the greatest risk reductions for oesophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, cancer of the gastric cardia, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia.
Myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, and bladder also showed reduced risks that were significant, but not as strong.
Risk was reduced for lung cancer, but only for current and former smokers; the reasons for this are still being studied.
Leisure-time physical activity is defined as exercise done at one’s own discretion, often to improve or maintain fitness or health. Examples include walking, running, swimming, and other moderate to vigorous intensity activities.
“Leisure-time physical activity is known to reduce risks of heart disease and risk of death from all causes, and our study demonstrates that it is also associated with lower risks of many types of cancer,” said Moore. “Furthermore, our results support that these associations are broadly generalizable to different populations, including people who are overweight or obese, or those with a history of smoking.”
The median level of activity in the study was about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, which is the amount recommended by the UK health department.
Most associations between physical activity and lower cancer risk changed little when adjusted for body mass index, suggesting that physical activity acts through mechanisms other than lowering body weight to reduce cancer risk.
Associations between physical activity and cancer were also similar in subgroups of normal weight and overweight participants, and in current smokers or people who never smoked.
There's so much more to be gained from exercise than burning calories and improving your body shape.
This study on lowering your risk of cancer should be looked at alongside the results of many other studies that have shown the health benefits of regular physical activity.
Here's the NHS list of the main health benefits:
- up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
- up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
- a 30% lower risk of early death
- up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
- a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
- up to a 30% lower risk of depression
- up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
The added bonus is that regular exercise makes you feel good: happier, more energetic and less stressed - get your trainers on!
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'Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity With Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults' Steven C. Moore, PhD, MPH and others
Benefits of Exercise NHS Choices