Exercise May Help Prevent Certain Cancers, According to Research

A recent study found that regular exercise is associated with a lower chance of developing several malignancies, including those of the head, neck, and lungs. Additionally, the researchers discovered that those with cancer who exercised continued to live longer than those without the diagnosis.

Exercise has been shown in countless studies to reduce the risk of a variety of illnesses, including cancer. However, a lot of this research has had limitations that make it difficult to define the precise advantages of exercise for cancer, according to study author Lee Jones, an exercise scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Therefore, Jones and his group looked for a solution to get over these drawbacks. In the end, they chose to examine data from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening research, a sizable randomized experiment that proactively monitored health outcomes in more than 60,000 persons with no prior history of cancer between the ages of 55 and 74.

According to Jones, “We were fortunate to identify a really robust dataset that addresses several of the prior limitations—this enabled a robust analysis of whether exercise reduced the risk of cancer in general, and then for certain cancer types, as well as long-term survival,” 

All of the participants were asked a number of health-related questions at the beginning of the study, one of which was whether or not they exercised often. Then, for more than ten years, researchers kept track of the individuals, counting the number of cancer diagnoses and overall fatalities.

According to research by Jones and colleagues, people who exercise regularly had a marginally lower overall risk of cancer than people who don’t. But in the case of lung, breast, and head and neck cancers in particular, the corresponding decreased risk was larger. Meanwhile, the researchers discovered a potential increased risk associated with exercise for two cancer types, melanoma and prostate cancer, but no association with a lower risk of other forms, such as colorectal and ovarian cancer. Additionally, they observed a dose-response relationship, which suggests that increasing activity appeared to have a stronger influence on the risk of cancer in either direction.

The results, which were released on Thursday in the journal Cancer Cell, are observational in nature, which means they are not able to establish a causal link between physical activity and cancer. Even so, Jones says, they do offer a more complex picture of how exercise influences our risk of cancer, even if exercise is still generally beneficial. He points out that the same data demonstrated that individuals who started a regular exercise regimen but later developed cancer were still less likely than non-exercisers to pass away at the conclusion of the research period.

“Our findings support current recommendations that regular exercise is important to reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer, but may not reduce risk of all forms of cancer,”  the researcher noted in reference to their findings. “Nevertheless, the longevity benefit suggests that even if being a regular exerciser does not lower your risk of all cancers, it still associates with a survival benefit.”

Jones and his colleagues regularly investigate the potential effects of exercise on cancer survival and risk. Thus, the research they are doing here should give them and other scientists fresh perspectives on how and why physical activity helps prevent various types of cancer. The group is already investigating how exercise may alter the biology of cells in certain organs, such as the breasts and colon, in both humans and animals. In the long run, they also intend to carry out clinical trials to see whether adherence to a particular exercise program can reduce the risk of cancer.

For the time being, nevertheless, there are many reasons to start or continue an exercise routine, including the possibility of preventing cancer. Jones added, “Overall, we feel our findings strengthen the recommendation and endorsement of exercise as an important aspect of cancer prevention,”

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