Moderate Exercise Improves Survival Rates for Colon Cancer Survivors

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Colon Cancer and Exercise

People who have been treated for colon cancer can substantially reduce the risk that the disease will return and improve their overall chance of survival by engaging in regular exercise, according to new research by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists.

In a pair of studies published on the Journal of Clinical Oncology website http://www.jco.org/ and slated to appear in the journal's Aug. 1 issue, the researchers found that colon cancer patients engaging in moderate levels of exercise six to 12 months after completing therapy had an approximately 50 percent higher survival rate than those who didn't exercise. The improvement took place in patients with very early and more advanced (but non-spreading) colon cancer, all of whom had undergone surgery intended to cure the disease.

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"From previous studies we know that regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing colon cancer, but until now few studies have looked at the survival effect of exercise on people who have been treated for disease," says the study's lead author, Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber. "While our work found a significant benefit for patients who exercise, it's important that exercise be seen as a supplement to, not a replacement for, standard therapies."

The two studies used different sets of data to arrive at their shared conclusion. One study involved 832 patients with stage III colon cancer (involving the lymph nodes around the tumor but with no signs of having spread outside the area) who had received surgery and follow-up chemotherapy as part of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) national clinical trial. Data on participants' recreational physical activities and health status was collected about six months after the completion of therapy.

Researchers found that patients who engaged in moderate physical activity

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