Improving Physical Fitness with Cardio May Cut Prostate Cancer Risk by More Than a Third

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Men in the study had their cardiorespiratory fitness measured on stationary bikes – credit, Sam Moghadam Khamseh – Unsplash

Researchers found those who increased their annual cardiorespiratory fitness activity (CRF) by 3% or more were up to 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer.

This small-change-big-result finding was established by a Swedish team, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, who hope to encourage men to improve their fitness in a bid to steer clear of the disease.

There are relatively few known risk factors for prostate cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. The American Cancer Society’s estimates are that 35,000 men will die this year in the nation from prostate cancer, and nearly 300,000 will develop it.

While evidence exists as to the beneficial effects of physical activity on the risk of several cancers, associations with prostate cancer are less clear-cut.

The majority of previous studies have assessed fitness only at a single point in time, and none have looked at the potential impact of fitness on both the risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer.

Therefore, researchers from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH) sought to discover whether improvements in men’s fitness could offset the risk of developing the disease.

“This is the largest study to examine the relationships between change in CRF (cardiorespiratory fitness) and cancer incidence and mortality, and the first study to examine change in CRF specifically on prostate cancer incidence and mortality,” said Dr. Kate Bolam, a lead author from the Department of Physical Activity and Health at GIH.

“Improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness in adult men should be encouraged and may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.”

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They analyzed data from a national occupational health profile in Sweden, containing information on physical activity, lifestyle, perceived health, measurements of body mass and height, and the results of at least two CRF tests.

The tests measured CRF performance in Zone 2 and the VO2 max of 57,652 Swedish men as they peddled on a stationary bike.

The participants were then divided into groups according to whether their fitness levels had changed, and followed them from the date of their last assessment to the date of their prostate cancer diagnosis, their death from any cause, or until 31 December 2019— whichever came first.

During an average period of nearly seven years, the researchers saw that 592 men—1% of the total sample—were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 46 died of their disease.

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When the participants were grouped according to whether their cardiorespiratory fitness had increased, remained stable, or fallen, those whose fitness had improved by 3% or more a year were found to be 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those whose fitness had declined, after accounting for potentially influential factors.

However, as the study was purely observational, it was unable to establish causal or genetic factors that have a major role in both a person’s cardiorespiratory fitness and cancer risk.

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