Lower Cancer Risk? Keep Exercising!

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There are plenty of good reasons to exercise, but if you need one more, consider this latest news on exercise’s ability to reduce cancer risk.

A new study reports on the relationship between physical activity and cancer. After following 1.4 million participants across the U.S. and Europe for a median of 11 years, the study concluded that a higher amount of physical activity corresponded with a lower rate of cancer for 13 different types of cancer, including lung, colon, breast and endometrial cancers. Study participants answered lifestyle questions, including their level of physical activity. 

Authors of the study, recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine (Journal of the American Medical Association), concluded, “These findings support promoting physical activity as a key component of population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts.”

More Evidence of Benefits for Lung Cancer

The National Cancer Institute reports that at least 21 studies have examined whether physical activity reduces the risk of lung cancer. Overall, research suggests that physically active people can reduce their risk of getting lung cancer by about 20 percent. The relationship is especially clear for men.

In the new study, the risk was reduced for lung cancer, but only for current and former smokers; the reasons for this are still being studied.

Factors such as smoking or respiratory disease may affect total cancer numbers and cause researchers to underestimate the full benefit of physical activity.

What’s Enough Activity?

Exercising at least 150 minutes per week seems to be the level that provides the protective effects against cancer, according to the studies. This is the same amount of exercise recommended for general physical health by a variety of health authorities. 

Moderate leisure-time physical activity includes exercise such as walking, running, swimming or other similar activities.

Why Does Physical Activity Lower Cancer Risk?Exercise to Prevent Cancer - Small

Researchers don’t know the exact reasons why exercise lowers cancer risk, but they have some theories about its protective effects against cancer:

  • Enhances immune system function and reduces inflammation 
  • Improves pulmonary function
  • Reduces concentrations of carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agents in the lungs
  • Enhances ability to repair DNA 
  • Has positive effects on certain metabolic functions involving insulin and proteins that govern insulin metabolism and inflammation

Whatever way you spin the facts and numbers, there’s no denying the benefits of exercise in protecting against lung cancer.

Small Steps: Bring a friend.
When you meet with your doctor to talk treatment options, bring a friend or family member. Your supporter can take notes, ask questions or just be there for you.