What is the link between physical activity and cancer?

Sunday, 4th February 2018 was World Cancer Day which aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease. 

What is known about the relationship between physical activity and cancer? There is substantial evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risks of several cancers and exercise is extremely beneficial for those recovering from cancer treatments.

Breast cancer: 

There have been a number of large scale studies that show that physically active women have a lower risk of breast cancer than inactive women2. In a recent analysis of over 73 studies conducted across the world, there was a 25% average risk reduction amongst physically active women as compared to the least active women. This risk reduction is greatest in post-menopausal women2.

Colon cancer: 

Physical activity has one of the strongest links to reduce the rate of colon cancer as compared to other cancers3. Australia has some of the highest rates of colon cancer and today 1 in 13 Australians will develop the disease4. Among both females and males, greater levels of physical activity lead to reduced numbers in those diagnosed with colon cancer. Men who are physically active have a 30-40% reduced risk of colon cancer and women have shown a 10-20% reduction5. Research has shown that moderate-high levels of exercise per week (>4hrs) has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer as well as improving survival rates6.

Prostate cancer:

Moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training is linked to a number of positive benefits for patients diagnosed with prostate cancer including, improved mental health, improved QOL, improved sexual function, decreased PSA levels, decreased fatigue and decreased depression7.

Physical activity is associated with a significantly decreased risk of not only these three cancers, but also endometrial cancers, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, myeloid leukemia and cancers of the head and neck, bladder, and lung8. 

Exercise lowers the risk of cancer in a number of ways. Firstly, exercise lowers the levels of hormones such as insulin and oestrogen which is shown to reduce the development and progression of cancers of the breast and colon. Regular physical activity helps to control levels of inflammation in the bowel which in turn can reduce the rate of cells multiplying9. 

Regular exercise also helps to prevent the harmful effects of obesity and sedentary behaviour which reduces the risk for developing chronic conditions10. 

How is exercise beneficial for cancer survivors?

Research indicates a number of benefits of exercise for those recovering from cancer treatments.  Some of these benefits include an improvement in health and well-being, strength and muscle bulk, energy levels, bone mineral density, balance and stability, cardiovascular health, immune function, pelvic floor function and treatment efficiency. Regular exercise also resulted in a reduction in stress, "chemo brain", risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and treatment-related side effects.

How can Kieser help? 

At Kieser, all our staff are highly qualified with degrees in either Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology or Exercise/Health Science. Due to this we are equipped to deal with clients with a wide range of conditions. 

Before commencing any of our strengthening programs, our clients are assessed by
either a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist to screen for pre-existing health conditions. The Kieser professional then maps out an appropriate treatment plan, and works with our Exercise Scientists to develop a bespoke, evidence-based program to help our clients achieve their goals.

How can an Exercise Physiologist help?


Kieser Exercise Physiologists are qualified to provide a structured, progressive exercise plan suitable to the stage of cancer, whether it be pre, during or post treatment. They are also able to provide education on weight management which has been shown to reduce the risk of some types of cancer1. Exercise Physiologists are also able to provide post-operative rehabilitation to relieve some of the side effects of some cancer treatment types. 

An Exercise Physiologist will take all considerations into account, including, but not limited to, cancer grade, cancer stage, previous treatment, current side-effects and symptoms and current exercise capacity.

Breaking down the barriers to exercise for clients with cancer
In the past, patients being treated for a chronic illness were often told to rest and reduce their physical activity. Newer research has shown that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but it can improve your physical function as well as your quality of life12. 

The main barriers to exercise for patients with cancer are lack of funding, lack of physician support, deterrents to participation (fear and shame, program location, competing interests) and disease progression and treatment13.

At Kieser, our programs produce results in a well-structured, efficient exercise program. Kieser programs are designed and overseen by health professionals to ensure that each individual client has a personalised program. Kieser's programs allow clients to improve their strength in a well-controlled, safe environment under the close supervision of qualified health professionals. This makes training much safer not only for clients with chronic conditions, but clients of all ages who risk injury in an unsupervised gym or home environment. 

If you or someone you know has cancer, visit your Exercise Physiologist at Kieser today. 

Article written and sourced by Stephen Harvey, Exercise Physiologist at Kieser Caulfield, Nicole Shue, Exercise Physiologist at Kieser Malvern and Joanna Falconer, Exercise Physiologist at Kieser Essendon. 

References

1World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2007. 

2Lynch B.M., Neilson H.K., Friedenreich C.M. (2010) Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Prevention. In: Courneya K., Friedenreich C. (eds) Physical Activity and Cancer. Recent Results in Cancer Research, vol 186. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

3Kruk J, Czerniak U. Physical activity and its relation to cancer risk: updating the evidence. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention 2013; 14(7):3993-4003.

4Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: Colorectal cancer. Canberra: AIHW. www.aihw.gov.au/acim-books.

5Lee IM. Physical activity and cancer prevention — data from epidemiologic studies. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003;35:1823-7.

6Slattery ML (2004) Physical activity and colorectal cancer. Sports Med 34: 239–252

7Keilani M, Hasenoehrl T, Baumann L, Ristl R, Schwarz M, Marhold M, Sedghi Komandj T, Crevenna R. Effects of resistance exercise in prostate cancer patients: a meta-analysis. Support Care Cancer. 2017;25(9):2953–68

8Moore SC, Lee IM, Weiderpass E, et al. Association of leisure- time physical activity with risk of 26 types of cancer in 1.44 million adults. JAMA Internal Medicine 2016; 176(6):816-825.

9Winzer BM, Whiteman DC, Reeves MM, Paratz JD. Physical activity and cancer prevention: a systematic review of clinical trials. Cancer Causes and Control 2011; 22(6):811-826

10F.W. Booth, C.K. Roberts, M.J. Laye. Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic disease. Comp. Physiol., 2 (2012), pp. 1143- 1211

11Rock CL, Doyle C, Demark-Wahnefried W, et al. Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62:242-274.

12Schmitz KH, Courneya KS, Matthews C, et al; American College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine roundtable on exercise guidelines for cancer survivors. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010; 42:1409-1426. 

13Mina DS, Petrella A, Currie KL, et al. Enablers and barriers in delivery of a cancer exercise program: the Canadian experience. Curr Oncol. 2015;22:374–84. doi: 10.3747/co.22.2650

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