How Exercise Can Reduce The Risk Of Cancer

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cancer exercise

Regular exercise can lower the risk of some cancers. It also plays a big role in the treatment of cancer patients and survivors.

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and the spread of abnormal cells. There are over 200 different types of cancers affecting many cells and tissues in the body. We will focus on some of the common types of cancer in this article.

Risk Factors

The major modifiable risk factors for cancer prevention include obesity or fatness, physical inactivity, and poor dietary habits. We are listing some of the risk factors as under:-

  • Old Age
  • Unhealthy lifestyles include a poor diet, lack of physical activity, or being overweight.
  • Occupational hazard
  • Radiation
  • Family history of cancer (Genetic susceptibility)
  • Alcohol, smoking, and tobacco
  • Chemicals and other substances.

There are four major types of cancers.

Exercise for Prevention

Regular exercise reduces the risk of three out of four major types of cancer, namely Breast, Prostate, and Colon. Early deduction of cancer greatly influences the treatment options. Even survival chances are much higher.


There are several ways in which regular exercise can reduce developing certain types of cancer.

  • Retard cancer growth at certain sites by enhancing natural immunity.
  • Increase the level of antioxidants which reduce the damage of cells due to oxidative stress. Stress promotes cancer.
  • Exercise reduces the total quantity of body fats which is a risk factor in several types of cancers such as breast cancer.
  • Exercise reduces certain growth factors such as IGF1 which contributes to tumor growth.
  • Reduce exposure time to several dietary carcinogens in the colon.

When examining the death rate of all types of cancer, the relationship between fitness levels and mortality level both in men and women shows that more aerobically fit individual is less likely to die because of cancer. Even an average fitness contributes to not getting cancer as compared to sedentary individuals.

A recent study was conducted to study the impact of leisure-time physical activity in over 26 types of cancers in 1.44 million adults. The result of the study was concluded as under:-

“Leisure-time physical activity was associated with lower risks of 13 of the 26 cancers investigated. Health care professionals counseling inactive adults should emphasize that most of these associations were evident regardless of body size or smoking history, supporting broad generalizability of findings.”

This shows that people with other risks of getting cancer also stand to benefit from regular exercise. Hence exercise can help prevent cancer in many cases.

Exercise in Treatment

Patients undergoing cancer treatment such as radiation, chemotherapy frequently suffer from chronic fatigue, loss of muscle mass and strength, reduce stamina, depression, and anxiety. Physical activity reduces the severity of these side effects. Exercise increases patients’ well-being and overall quality of life. Physical activity may also reduce chances of reoccurring and mortality in certain types of cancer such as breast and colon cancer.

Various studies show that aerobic exercise and fitness reduce severe fatigue in recovering cancer patients. Improving this affects other factors such as anxiety, depression, and self-esteem. Exercise also makes a patient more involved in the treatment giving them peace of mind.

The mechanism responsible for these exercise effects is similar to those already discussed for the prevention of cancer such as improving immune function, reducing oxidative stress and growth factors as well as traditional adaptation related to endurance and strength training.
Exercise and psychological interventions are effective for improving cancer-related fatigue whereas pharmaceutical interventions are not. Hence Exercise should be given to patients as the first line of treatment.

Summary

Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of some of the more common forms of cancer including breast, prostate, and colon cancer. Regular physical activity also improves other risk factors associated with these cancers including obesity, growth factors, and oxidative stress. Exercise is also an excellent therapy for cancer patients and survivors lessening fatigue, depression, and anxiety while increasing stamina, strength, and self-esteem.

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