It should come as no surprise that yet another study points to exercise as a means to improve health outcomes. However, the newest research attests that consistent exercise—and not even that rigorous—has the potential to significantly reduce [statistical] risk for cancer.
The study analyzed the effect of exercise on 15 types of cancer. Of the 15, engaging in the recommended amount of physical activity—between 7.5 and 15 MET hours per week—can significantly improve outcomes for at least 7 common types. In male colon cancer patients, for example, 7.5 MET hours of exercise per week was linked with an 8 percent lower risk and a 14 percent lower risk with 15 MET hours of exercise. The rates are similar among breast cancer patients (at 6 and 10 percent, respectively); kidney cancer patients (11 and 17 percent), endometrial cancer (10 and 18 percent), non-Hodgkin lymphoma in women (11 to 18 percent), myeloma (14 and 19 percent), and liver cancer (18 to 27 percent).
In the study, the authors conclude “These findings provide direct quantitative support for the levels of activity recommended for cancer prevention and provide actionable evidence for ongoing and future cancer prevention efforts.”
At the same time, the researchers admit the study has its limitations. For one, even though the total sample size was substantial, the number of participants studied for each type of cancer was quite limited. This means the numbers may not be fully representative of the real world population—not that they are invalid, just that they not be entirely accurate. Also, most of the participants were white and had self-reported their physical activity level, further shrinking accurate real-world representation; and is also prone to human error.
Still, study author Dr. Alpa Patel defends the research, noting that it still proves the benefit of physical activity. For anyone who is looking to improve health outcomes—particularly those at risk for cancer—the study suggests that exercise will definitely help.
Dr. Patel comments, “Physical activity guidelines have largely been based on their impact on chronic disease like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These data provide strong support that these recommended levels are important to cancer prevention, as well.”