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Study: Physical Activity Lowers Risk of Cancer

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. The median level of activity in the study was about 150 minutes (about 20-25 minutes per day) of moderate-intensity activity per week, which is comparable to the current recommended minimum level of physical activity for the U.S. population.

Hundreds of 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 in the studies. This new study pooled data on 1.44 million people, ages 19 to 98, from the United States and Europe, 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 that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a lower risk of 10 additional cancers, with the greatest risk reductions for esophageal 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.

For years, there has been substantial evidence that supports a role for physical activity in three leading cancers: colon, breast, and endometrial cancers, but this study that links physical activity to 10 additional cancers shows its impact may be even more relevant, and that physical activity has far reaching value for cancer prevention.

The benefits of physical activity are also shown to decrease your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and many other diseases. The best thing you can do to ensure better health in the future is to make it a priority to build activity into your daily life.

Being physically active is one of the pillars of leading a Cancer Healthy lifestyle. Cancer Healthy is an initiative developed by the experts at El Camino Hospital, that focuses on steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing cancer by up to 30%.
In addition to leading an active lifestyle, it’s important to eat for cancer prevention and talk with your doctor about which cancer screenings may be right for you. In 2017, El Camino Hospital is committing to make our community Cancer Healthy by providing tips, recipes, and screenings to help you prevent your risk of developing cancer. Make a resolution to be cancer healthy in the new year.
The cancer healthy initiative is made possible by donations made to the El Camino Hospital Foundation.

This article first appeared in the June 2016 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter and the February issue of the Cancer Center Connections newsletter.

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