Health And Lifestyle For The Over 50s

Better Fitness Reduces Risk of Cancer for Older Men

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Being physically fit has plenty of well-documented benefits and is known to significantly reduce the chance of a number of age-related diseases and conditions. If the abundance of existing reasons to stay fit aren’t enough to keep you active, then you might be convinced by new evidence which links high fitness to a reduced risk of cancer in older men.

Researchers analysed baseline fitness data from 13,949 men, as assessed by a medical examination, a cardiovascular risk factor assessment and an exercise treadmill test. The men’s fitness levels were then categorised as low, moderate or high.

The fitness level data was assessed and compiled between 1971 and 2009, while Medicare data was used to analyse cancer diagnoses between 1999 and 2009. The researchers found that men with high cardiorespiratory fitness at midlife – between the ages of 46 and 51 – had a 55% lower risk of lung cancer and a 44% lower risk of colorectal cancer, compared to those with low cardiorespiratory fitness. Cancer-related mortality risk at age 65 or above was also 32% lower for those with high fitness. However, it was also noted that no link was found between fitness and the development of prostate cancer.

“The relationship between fitness and prostate cancer risk is controversial,” says study author Susan G. Lakoski, MD, MS, of the University of Vermont. “It is possible that men with higher cardiorespiratory fitness may be more likely to undergo more frequent preventive healthcare screening and/or detection visits and, thus, had greater opportunity to be diagnosed as having localised prostate cancer relative to men of lower cardiorespiratory fitness.”

Lakoski highlights that keeping as fit as possible is essential, regardless of whether it is the reason for a reduced cancer risk. She says that even though high fitness was not found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, high fitness prior to diagnosis was associated with a decreased chance of dying from the disease. “This speaks to the importance of being fit in midlife to improve survival even if a man ultimately develops lung, prostate, or colorectal cancer later in life.”

“Our findings indicate that cardiorespiratory fitness provides cancer risk prediction information beyond these established lifestyle risk factors,” Lakoski concludes. “These findings provide support for the utility of cardiorespiratory fitness assessment in preventive healthcare settings and possibly following a diagnosis of cancer. Individuals with higher cardiorespiratory fitness are expected to have lower circulating concentrations of metabolic and sex steroid hormones, enhanced immunity, and lower inflammation and oxidative injury.”

Further research is needed to determine the threshold level of cardiorespiratory fitness necessary to reduce the risk of cancer or cancer mortality.