One hour walking a day increases survival chances of colorectal cancer patients
People with intestinal cancer increase their survival rate significantly if they walk for an hour or more every day. Oncologists at Harvard Medical School discovered this when they monitored 573 women with gut cancer for a number of years.
Exercise & cancer
The more you exercise, the less likely you are to develop cancer. This is probably because physical activity stimulates enzymes that protect our genetic material. But can exercise help if you already have cancer? The answer to this question, according to a modest but growing pile of studies, is 'yes'.
One of the first of these studies was published in 2006 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. It is based on data gathered by epidemiologists for the Nurses Health Study. In this project researchers have followed about 120,000 women since the 1970s. The 2006 study was based on the data for 573 women who developed nonmetastatic colorectal cancer between 1986 and 2004.
The researchers knew how active the women were, and expressed their physical activity in MET-hours per week. Put briefly, 3 MET-hours is equivalent to 1 hour of walking at a moderate speed, 9 MET-hours is the equivalent of 3 hours' walking and 18 MET-hours is equivalent to 6 hours of walking.
The researchers discovered that the pattern of exercise after diagnosis had an influence on the mortality rate. The women who walked every day for one hour – or took equivalent exercise – reduced their likelihood of dying by sixty percent. Physical activity reduced both the Colorectal Cancer-Specific Mortality and the Overall Mortality.
In the group that walked for six hours each week about 85 percent of the women were still alive after 10 years. In the group that walked for less than 1 hour per week about 65 percent were still alive.
The amount of physical exercise that the women did before that they developed cancer did not have a protective effect after the onset of cancer. At that moment only the amount of physical exercise taken after developing cancer had a protective effect.
In other words: the women who were already physically active before developing cancer optimised their chances by maintaining their exercise pattern. Women who had little exercise improved their chances of survival by taking up exercise.
"Physical activity after a colorectal cancer diagnosis may lower the risk of death from that disease", the researchers conclude. "This benefit was seen regardless of age, BMI, stage, or site of disease. These data suggest that, in addition to surgery and chemotherapy, increasing physical activity may confer additional benefit to patients with colorectal cancer."
J Clin Oncol. 2006 Aug 1;24(22):3527-34.
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