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Exercise, physical activity lowers chances of dying from colon cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

People who are physically active in adulthood have a lower chance of death from colon cancer, found in a large study.

An analysis of 150,000 men and women showed that beginning an exercise program as simple as walking 30 minutes a day also has benefits for reducing the chances of death from cancer, even after being diagnosed with the disease.

The new study, led by researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis who teamed up with colleagues from the American Cancer Society, followed levels of exercise among study participants from 1982 to 1997. The scientists then compared the number of colon cancer diagnoses during 1998 and 2005, linking activity levels to the number of cancer cases and resultant deaths that occurred between 1998 and 2006.

The lowest risk of dying from colon cancer was found among those who exercised consistently for 10 years, but first author Kathleen Wolin, ScD says, it's not necessary to work out for hours a day or run marathons.

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Wolin says, “People often wonder around the start of a new year whether exercise really will help them stay healthy or whether it’s already too late. It’s never too late to start exercising, but it’s also never too early to start being active. That’s the message we hope people will take away from this study.”

She also points out regular exercise does much more than lowering the chances of developing or dying from colon cancer. “You get enormous ‘bang for the buck. You go for a 30-minute walk every day, and you’re going to reduce your risk of a number of diseases. And in addition, our research has also shown that you feel better, physically and mentally, so you’re able to function better.”

Even after being diagnosed with cancer, exercising can lower the chances of death and disease recurrence says Wolin. The findings are among the first to show that exercise can increase the chances of surviving colon cancer, adding to the other known benefits of regular physical activity.

Washington University in Saint Louis