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Lifetime of vigorous exercise may lower risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Lifetime of vigorous exercise lowers risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

A lifetime of vigorous exercise may reduce the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to a new study.


Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes. It accounts for about 4 percent of all cancers, and the average American’s risk of developing NHL during his or her lifetime is about 1 in 50. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 71,850 people will be diagnosed with NHL in 2015, and about 19,790 will die from the disease.

Researchers said activities that significantly increase breathing and heart rate appear to be the most beneficial in protecting against the disease.

"We know that being physically active reduces the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer, and also leads to a range of other physical and mental health benefits," said study author Terry Boyle, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia.

Boyle said the research suggests that people who do vigorous physical activity may have a lower risk for NHL.

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Researchers examined data on 818 people of varying ages in British Columbia with NHL in 2000 to 2004. Roughly two-thirds of the participants were men. Participants answered questions about their overall health and lifestyle, including their level of physical activity. The questions were repeated for each decade of their life.

The study found that those who engaged in the most intense physical activities throughout their life had a 30 percent lower risk of NHL than those exercised less.

"In this case-control study, we found that the most physically active participants had a lower risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma than the least active participants,” Boyle said. “We found that vigorous-intensity physical activity in particular, such as activities that increase breathing and heart rates to a high level, was the most effective at lowering risk."

The study also found that there were no apparent age periods in which physical activity appeared to have a greater risk reduction.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.