Exercise and cancer risk

A recent study showed that higher levels of leisure time physical activity were associated with lower risks for 13 (!) types of cancers. This data was according to a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine. This means that having a little activity in your life can help reduce the risk, and associated costs, involved with a cancer diagnosis.

For years, health experts and medical professionals have talked endlessly about how important it is to incorporate exercise into a daily routine. It not only reduces the risk of cancer, bit it also cuts back on diabetes, saves people money on expensive doctor visits, increases productivity at work, and has countless other benefits. It the best news yet is that almost all exercise can be done for free!


This study greatly adds to the importance of making time to exercise. It is just one of may that have come out in recent years. Physical inactivity is very common with an estimated 51% of people in the US and 31% of people worldwide who are not meeting recommended physical activity levels.

Doctors at the National Cancer Institute and coauthors pooled data from 12 US and European studies with self-reported physical activity. They reviewed associations of physical activity with the incidence of 26 kinds of cancer. So a number of conditions were reviewed and any exhaustive review of the data was done.

The study included 1.4 million participants and of that, 186,932 cancers were identified during an 11 year follow-up. Findings showed that higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower risks of 13 out of 26 cancers. The types of cancers were esophageal, liver, lung, kidney, gastric, endometrial, myeloid leukemia, myeloma, colon, head/neck, rectal, bladder and breast with varying percentages. It reinforces how helpful activity is to saving lives and cutting back on medical expenses.

Many findings were the same regardless of bodyweight and smoking status. Overall, a higher level of physical activity was associated with a 7% lower risk of total cancer. This is an astonishing number that could lead to millions of lives being saved worldwide. However, for those that have been diagnosed, there are resources that can help pay for cancer treatments and associated costs.

In full transparency, the main limitation of the study is that diet, smoking and other lifestyle factors could not be fully excluded and the physical activity was all self-reported by participants. Unfortunately there is no way to precisely measure the results.

However, the positive findings promoted how important physical activity is for cancer prevention, control efforts and for decreasing the cancer burden in all respects throughout the world.

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