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New York Times: Exercise Tied to Lower Risk for 13 Types of Cancer (Including Blood Cancers)
Posted: May 26, 2016
New York Times: Exercise Tied to Lower Risk for 13 Types of Cancer (Including Blood Cancers) image

As part of the Muscles for Myeloma effort, we have been encouraging myeloma patients to exercise. Patient fitness levels matter when treatments options are selected. The more "fit" we are, the more treatments we have available to us (and, generally, the better we will fare). An article published in the New York Times confirm that the more one exercises, the less chance we have of developing 13 different types of cancer. So either way we look at it-- staying fit to prevent cancer, or staying fit to fight cancer -- exercise is critically important. Whether it's walking, water aerobics, yoga, organized sports-- or even a vigorous walk to the mailbox if that's where we must start -- it matters. (Make sure you discuss your workout routine with your doctor prior to starting anything new.) Here are excerpts from the article.

Exercise Tied to Lower Risk For 13 Types of Cancer BY GRETCHEN REYNOLDS FOR NY TIMES

Anyone who still needs motivation to move more may find it in a new study showing that, in addition to its other health benefits, exercise appears to substantially reduce the risk of developing 13 different varieties of cancer. That is far more types than scientists previously thought might be impacted by exercise. The comprehensive study also suggests that the potential cancer-fighting benefits of exercise seem to hold true even if someone is overweight.

The idea that exercise might change someone’s susceptibility to cancer is, of course, not new. Many studies have found that people who are physically active, either through exercise or while on the job, tend to be less likely to develop certain types of cancer than people who are sedentary.

But those studies primarily looked at associations between exercise and a few common malignancies, such as breast cancer in women, and colon and lung cancers in both women and men.

Whether physical activity, and more precisely, regular exercise, would also lower our risk for other cancers has remained an open question.

So for the new study, which was published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine, scientists with the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, as well as Harvard Medical School, and a number of other institutions around the world turned to a large trove of epidemiological health studies conducted in the United States or Europe.

In these earlier studies, researchers directly measured volunteers’ body mass and other health markers and also asked about their diets and exercise habits. The researchers then tracked the participants for a decade or more, noting disease diagnoses or, in some instances, deaths.

Such studies help to establish links between lifestyles and disease risk. But the number of people involved must be hefty if the associations are to be persuasive.

To gain sufficient numbers now, the Cancer Institute researchers gathered data from 12 large-scale studies that, pooled together, involved 1.44 million men and women.

The researchers focused on specific information for each of those 1.44 million people about whether they exercised, and how vigorously and how often. They also zeroed in on whether and when, after each study’s start, the participant had been diagnosed with any type of cancer.

Then, using elaborate statistical methods, they computed the role that exercise, and in particular, moderate or vigorous exercise such as brisk walking or jogging, seemed to be playing in people’s risks for cancer.

It turned out to be considerable. For most cancers, people who reported exercising moderately, even if the time that they spent exercising was slight, had significantly less risk of developing 13 different types of cancer than people who were sedentary.

The researchers found a reduced risk of breast, lung and colon cancers, which had been reported in earlier research. But they also found a lower risk of tumors in the liver, esophagus, kidney, stomach, endometrium, blood, bone marrow, head and neck, rectum and bladder.


Just how physical activity may be undercutting the risk for so many disparate types of cancers is not yet fully understood, Dr. Moore said, although he and his colleagues suspect that changes in exercisers’ hormone levels, degree of inflammation, digestion and overall energy balance most likely contribute.

Bear in mind, though, that this was an observational study, so it cannot directly prove that exercise reduces cancer risks, only that there is an association between more exercise and less disease. It also relied on participants’ memories of exercise, which can be unreliable.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Muscles for Myeloma

While our Muscles for Myeloma campaign has ended, the program is staying open indefinitely due to popular demand. We have some myeloma friends who are joining summer and fall events and have suggested that fitness is never over. We agree! So far, we’ve raised over $30,000 for the MCRI! Now before we rest on our laurels, let’s keep moving. Let’s keep focused on staying as healthy as possible, combating this disease each day, and finding strength and hope through each other. If you are interested in joining or forming a team, contact us at  

The author Lizzy Smith

about the author
Lizzy Smith

Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.

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