Study Shows Regular Exercise Benefits Prostate Cancer Survivors
Article date: January 7, 2010
By: Rebecca Viksnins Snowden
If you've recently finished treatment for prostate cancer, exercise may be one of the last things on your mind. But there are plenty of reasons to lace up your sneakers and commit to exercising in 2010. A new study shows that even a moderate amount of exercise – taking regular walks, for example – reduced overall mortality rates in men with prostate cancer. The more vigorous the exercise, the greater the benefits, the study found.
"We saw benefits at very attainable levels of activity," said Stacey A. Kenfield, ScD, epidemiology research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "The results suggest that men with prostate cancer should do some physical activity for their overall health."
The study was presented recently at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference in Houston, Texas, but has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Kenfield and colleagues followed 2,686 prostate cancer patients who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 through 2008. The researchers assessed each man's physical activity both before and after prostate cancer treatment.
They found that men who engaged in vigorous physical activity for 30 minutes per week (jogging, biking, swimming, or playing tennis) had a 35% lower risk of dying from any cause. Men who walked 4 or more hours per week had a 23% lower risk of dying from any cause than men who walked for less than 20 minutes. Power walkers – those who walked 90 minutes or more at a normal to brisk pace -- saw their risk decline even more, by 51%, as compared to men who walked less (less than 90 minutes at an easy pace).
"This is the first large population study to examine exercise in relation to mortality in prostate cancer survivors," said Kenfield. Other studies have focused on how regular exercise might prevent prostate cancer.
The longer and more vigorous the exercise, the greater the benefits for the men, the researchers found. Men who engaged in regular vigorous exercise were also less likely to die from prostate cancer, though walking didn't affect that risk.
"How these factors may work together to affect prostate cancer biologically is still being studied," said Kenfield. "For now, our data indicate that for prostate cancer survivors, a moderate amount of regular exercise may improve overall survival, while 5 or more hours per week of vigorous exercise may decrease the death rate due to prostate cancer specifically."
Regular exercise also has many other benefits. It can help reduce the bone-weary fatigue many cancer patients feel even after treatment has stopped. It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) fitness, strengthens your muscles, lowers anxiety and depression, and can help you feel better about yourself. Exercise such as weight-lifting can also help combat the side effects – fatigue, functional decline, loss of lean body issue, and increased body fat – associated with hormone therapy.
Find an activity you enjoy and get moving. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program to make sure it's safe for you, especially if you haven't exercised in a long time.
For ideas on getting active and adopting healthier eating habits, check out the tools and resources from the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org/foodandfitness.
Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff
ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.
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