New Research Sets Physical Activity Goals for Cancer Prevention - NFCR

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Getting the body moving can be particularly challenging during winter when many parts of the country are under an icy blanket of snow. Undoubtedly it is more comfortable to stay snuggled up on the couch dreaming of spring. However, new research shows that physical activity prevents cancer – and the gold standard is not as unattainable as one might think. 

Exercise and Cancer Prevention

This 2021 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reviewed the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System results. This system collects self-reported data from individuals 30 years or older collected in all 50 states and Washington D.C. between 2013 and 2016. The study reveals that participating in five or more hours of exercise each week reduced the risk of seven different cancers.

The seven cancers linked to physical inactivity include:

  • 17% of stomach cancer cases 
  • 12% of endometrial cancer cases 
  • 11% of kidney cancer cases 
  • 9% of colon cancer cases
  • 8% of esophageal cancer cases
  • 7% of breast cancer cases in women, and 
  • 4% of urinary bladder cancers 

Simply put, the team discovered that over 46,000 cases of cancer could potentially be avoided per year in the United States if the population met the recommended five hours/week of physical activity.

What Kind of Physical Activity Should You Try? 

While undertaking any type of physical activity may significantly reduce cancer risk, some types of exercise may be even more effective. A University of Sydney research team assembled to determine which form of exercise is the most effective at preventing cancer.

After studying 80,000 adults, the team concluded that strength training is more effective at prolonging life than cardio workouts. The study considered multiple health variables, such as age, health status, and lifestyle. Even when accounting for these factors, the study found that strength training twice a week reduced the likelihood of dying from cancer by 31%. Actually, the overall probability of any kind of premature death decreased by 23%. 

Exercise and Immunotherapy Response 

Similarly, a 2021 study led by National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)-funded scientist Dr. Rakesh Jain found that exercise training may slow tumor growth and improve outcomes for females with breast cancer – especially those treated with immunotherapy drugs.

The team used animal models of breast cancer in this study, which showed physical activity increasing levels of cancer-fighting immune cells. Tumors in mouse models of human breast cancer grew more slowly in mice put through their paces in a structured aerobic exercise program than in sedentary mice. The tumors in exercised mice exhibited an increased anti-tumor immune response. Additionally, the tumors grew more slowly in mice that performed exercise training.

Living a Cancer-Preventative Lifestyle

Regular exercise can significantly improve one’s overall health concerning cancer, other serious diseases, mental health, and general wellbeing. Many researchers continue to explore how best to reap the benefits of a well-balanced lifestyle, and NFCR is committed to providing free evidence-based guidance in its monthly Cancer-Fighting Lifestyle blog and YouTube Channel

Additional Reads You May Enjoy:

Mushrooms for Cancer Prevention and Mental Wellbeing

Genetic Predisposition vs. Healthy Living: Which Impacts Cancer Risk More?

5 Ways Spending More Time Outside Benefits Our Health

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