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Exercise Proves Key to Preventing Cancer

AN INTERNATIONAL team of researchers have compiled data from 12 different studies demonstrating the important role exercise can play in helping to prevent the development of 13 different cancers.

The study followed 1.44 million people from the USA and Europe aged 19–98 years. During the 11 years of study 187,000 of the patients developed cancer. The leisure time physical activity that was monitored included moderate-to-vigorous exercise carried out at the patient’s discretion, such as swimming, walking, or running. The median time spent exercising during the study was 150 minutes per week, the minimum recommended for a healthy lifestyle in the USA.

The researchers, including scientists from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Maryland, USA, and the American Cancer Society (ACS), Georgia, USA, added to current understanding that moderate-to-vigorous exercises have a beneficial effect on the risk of developing colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. They found the greatest reductions in risks of oesophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, cancer of the gastric cardia, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukaemia, with smaller reductions also seen in myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, and bladder. Analysis of the data shows that the risk of developing seven types of cancer was at least 20% lower for the 10% most active participants in the study, compared with the 10% least active.

The team also found that these results could be applied across the board; exercising in this manner often reduced the risk of cancer for patients regardless of their weight and smoking status. The only exception to this was their finding regarding lung cancer, as risk was only reduced in current and former smokers, not in never-smokers, a finding which is under further investigation.

“Furthermore, our results support that these associations are broadly generalisable to different populations, including people who are overweight or obese, or those with a history of smoking,” commented Dr Steven C. Moore, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, NCI, Maryland, USA. He concluded: “healthcare professionals counselling inactive adults should promote physical activity as a component of a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention.”

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