Tuesday, December 31, 2019

More Exercise, Less Cancer


At the risk of seeming a bit one-note, here is some more news about one of the greatest discoveries in modern medicine. The study has shown that regular exercise helps to prevent several kinds of cancers. So, exercise does only improve cardiovascular health, improve your mood and help to forestall depression. It prevents you from getting cancer.

What's not to like?

We are all interested in scientific discovery. It's sexy to see a great scientist discovering a new cure for cancer. Shouldn’t we be even more concerned with preventing cancer in the first place? And while politicians drone on about how they are going to provide great health care for everyone for free, shouldn’t we be thinking of what we might do in order not to need it.

It would be politically incorrect to do so, but still.

So, today, on the day before the new year arrives, it should be a good time to resolve to take up a fitness program next year. And to stick with it.

The report comes to us from NBC News:

Exercise is linked to a reduced risk of seven types of cancer, and the more physical activity the better, according to a study published Thursday.

The study, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at whether meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines had an effect on cancer risk.

In general, healthy adults are encouraged to engage in 2.5 to 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking or gardening. Alternatively, up to 2.5 hours of vigorous activity — jogging, running, swimming laps, jumping rope or hiking — are recommended.

These "guidelines have largely been based on their impact on chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes," Alpa Patel, senior scientific director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

"These data provide strong support that these recommended levels are important to cancer prevention, as well," she said.

How was the study conducted?

Participants reported their leisure-time physical activity, and were followed for a decade, on average, to see if they developed 15 different types of cancer.

What was the result?

Meeting or exceeding the recommended guidelines goals was linked to a reduced risk of seven of those cancers. Among both men and women, the risk of kidney cancer was reduced by up to 17 percent, liver cancer by up to 27 percent and myeloma by up to 19 percent.

Among men, increased exercise was linked to up to a 14 percent reduced risk for colon cancer. Among women, more physical activity was associated with up to a 10 percent lower risk for breast cancer and up to an 18 percent lower risk of both endometrial cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The report correctly notes that the study involved a correlation, more than a causation. It might be that those who exercise more also have healthier lifestyles:

The study was observational, and the findings do not prove cause and effect. Indeed, it's possible people who exercise more also engage in other healthy lifestyle behaviors that may influence cancer risk.

And yet, physical activity has been shown to affect tumor growth.

But evidence is growing that physical activity may directly affect tumor growth: A 2016 study from the National Cancer Institute found people who exercised the most also had lower odds of developing cancers of the bladder, esophagus, lung, rectum and stomach.

Exercise also helps protect against other diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and has been shown to improve mood and sleep.

This type of information has been widely disseminated for some time now. And yet, the message has not yet translated into direct action.

But most people aren't meeting their exercise requirements. Less than a quarter of American adults get the recommended amount of physical activity each week.

Think about that: less than 25% of Americans get enough exercise. No wonder health care is such a big issue. No wonder we count among the world's leading consumers of medical care.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Because of this column, I went to hit tennis balls although I didn't want to because I'm lazy.