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Exercise, fitness earlier in life reduce cancer risk: Study
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Exercise, fitness earlier in life reduce cancer risk: Study

Swedish study concludes that higher fitness levels in one’s youth can lower the risk of cancer
Study by researchers from Sweden shows that being fit can reduce the risk of head, neck, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon, rectum and kidney-site specific cancers.
Studies show that fitness and physical activity is crucial in the battle against cancer – from prevention to treatment.

A new Swedish study has confirmed the long-term positive influence of regular exercise on health. The study, which was conducted over 33 years, analyzed the association between cardiorespiratory fitness in young men and the occurrence of site-specific cancer in them as they got older.

The report, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, concludes that there is a reduced risk of developing nine out of 18 site-specific cancers among men who maintained a good level of fitness with regular workouts in their youth.

The organs which showed reduced risks of cancer are head and neck, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon, rectum and kidney.

It was also observed that men with a higher cardiorespiratory fitness had a 20-40% lower chance of developing cancer at the gastrointestinal sites.  

However, higher cardiorespiratory fitness was also associated with higher occurrences of prostate cancer and malignant skin cancer. While increased prostrate screening was attributed as the reason for the former, higher exposure to UV radiations during outdoor activities was linked to the latter. 

Regardless of the anomaly, the study says that some cancers can be avoided in men by maintaining a certain level of cardiorespiratory fitness during the younger years.

According to a 2008 study, doing moderate-intensity or higher physical activity on a regular basis can reduce the risk of several types of cancer — including breast, colon and endometrium cancer — in many.  

Physical activity and cancer 

Lack of physical activity and an improper diet are the top causes of obesity, which can lead to other heath conditions like diabetes and heart-related health issues. But that’s not all: they can also lead to several obesity-related cancers

“It is observed that in individuals who are overweight and obese, there is an increased incidence of cancers, some of which are hormone-driven cancers,” says Dr Dayananda Srinivasan, a surgical oncologist and founder of Diya Cancer Care, Bangalore. 

Dr Anil Kamath, a senior consultant and surgical oncologist at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore, says, “Reduced physical activity, which leads to obesity, has a very strong association with endometrial and breast cancer.

Increased body fat also increases other hormones like insulin and certain pro-inflammatory enzymes which increase cancer risk.

Exercise and cancer prevention 

The skeletal muscles are used while being physically active, which includes work done in the office, household chores, recreational activities and commutes. These activities require you to move around instead of being sedentary. Along with being physically active, regular exercises can also help in preventing development of cancers

“WHO, in [reference to] oncology, suggests that people should exercise at least two hours in a week,” says Dr Shivam Shingla, a consultant medical oncologist at SL Raheja Hospital — A Fortis Associate, Mumbai.  “As lack of exercise is directly related to colon, breast, uterus, liver and gallbladder cancer, doing exercises can reduce the risk of cancer by 50%. Exercises which require physical exertion and make you sweat — like brisk walking or even stair climbing — can be done.  Even if one gets cancer, it can be detected early, treated and cured in many cases.” 

Role of exercises in cancer treatment 

Dr Kamath says that to undergo the treatment process itself, the person must be in a good physical condition, “to tolerate it better”.

Dr Srinivasan adds, “In order to get a better treatment outcome, lifestyle modification that includes physical activity is ideal.”

A review states that even after successful cancer treatment, there might be some symptoms and side-effects. These, however, can be amended through physical activity. Engaging in physical activity during and after cancer treatment can benefit physiological and psychological health. 

Takeaways

  • According to a new study by researchers from Sweden, being fit can reduce the risk of head and neck, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon, rectum and kidney site-specific cancers. 
  • Increasing physical activity and regular exercise can also lower the risk of certain obesity- and hormone-related cancers. 
  • Engaging in physical activity plays an important role in the battle against cancer, as it is crucial prior, during and post treatment. 

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