Exercise And Cancer: What’s The Connection?

You know exercise is good for your heart, but here’s how it may also lower your risk of cancer.

You’ve heard it over and over. It’s important to get off the couch and move more throughout the day. The U.S. Department of Health recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.

Being more active can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also help control blood sugar levels and may help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.  Obesity is a risk factor for many health conditions.

In addition to the obvious benefits of physical activity, several studies have shown that higher levels of physical activity may also lower your risk of some types of cancer. One of the most studied cancers in relation to physical activity is colon cancer. An analysis of several studies showed that people who were the most physically active had as much as a 24% lower risk of colon cancer compared to those who were the least physically active.

Other studies have shown a connection between higher levels of physical activity and cancer risk. For example, physical activity has been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer in pre- and post-menopausal women. Although the exact link between exercise and a reduced cancer risk is not strong, a study of over 1 million people indicates that more physically active people may have lower risks of myeloid leukemia and myeloma, endometrial, esophageal, liver and kidney cancers, as well as cancers of the head and neck, rectum and bladder.

It’s unclear whether exercise alone is responsible for the reduced cancer risk or if other factors in people who are more or less physically active are what’s responsible for influencing cancer risk. Nevertheless, there is plenty of evidence to support the fact that physical activity is an important part of staying healthy. That’s reason enough to get off the couch and move more.


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Date Last Reviewed: May 17, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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