As the new year begins and February is Cancer Prevention Month, it is a good time to reflect on where we are and what the new year may bring. Many people begin the new year with a resolution to exercise and lose weight. This resolution can be important to cancer patients in terms of possibly lowering the risk of recurrence. Many patients will ask me “What can I do to lower my risks of this cancer coming back?” Exercise is a way to take back control over their lives. Most studies of exercise and cancer have focused on using exercise to lower the risk of developing a cancer. Generally, exercise can reduce the risk of developing a breast or colon cancer. There are few studies looking at lowering the risk of recurrences after a cancer diagnosis has been made. The studies are promising. A study published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that breast cancer survivors who walked three to five hours per week were about 50% less likely to die from breast cancer over the next four to eighteen years. The more they walked, the greater the benefit. Last year, the International Journal of Cancer, found that women who were active before their diagnosis of breast cancer had less chances of it returning. A study of colon cancer patients published in Journal of Clinical Oncology found that patients who engaged in more than three hours of exercise per week were about half as likely to see a return of their disease.
Exercise can affect the odds of dying from a cancer. A review published this year in the Annals of Oncology showed that survivors of breast cancer and colorectal cancer who engaged in at least 150 minutes per week of moderately intense exercise had a 25% reduction in mortality compared to patients who did not exercise.
Although all this sounds good, we don’t have randomized studies looking at outcome where one group is assigned to exercise and another group is not. There are a few groups looking to conduct such studies. But this doesn’t mean cancer survivors should sit around waiting for results. Exercise makes good sense. It helps prevent obesity which we know can increase the risk of cancer. So, if you are a survivor, get up and move your booty!!!