Give Yourself the Gift of Movement

Physical Activity Significantly Boosts Survival in Cancer Patients

“The message is that it’s never too late to start exercising.” Dr. Rikki Cannioto

CHICAGO — Cancer patients who are physically active both before and after treatment are 40% more likely to survive compared to those who are sedentary, according to new findings.

Dr Rikki Cannioto

The association between physical activity and mortality was observed across eight cancer types. Importantly, the findings held after adjustment for sex, tumor stage, smoking status, and body mass index.

The results of the study were presented at the recent American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2018 Annual Meeting.

“Even though the significant association was seen in only eight of the tumor sites, the hazard ratio was below 1 in nearly every tumor site that we studied,” said lead author Rikki Cannioto, PhD, EdD, assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, New York.

“From a practical standpoint, it looks like there’s a survival advantage for all tumor types,” she told Medscape Medical News. “We may not have been sufficiently powered to see a significance for all of them, but the take-home message is that there is a benefit for all cancer patients.”

More importantly, Cannioto noted, was the improvement in survival among patients who had previously been sedentary. “Patients who reported never doing anything in terms of recreational activity in the decade prior to diagnosis, and then reported doing something around the time of diagnosis and afterwards, remarkably had about a 25% to 28% improvement in survival compared to those who remained inactive,” she said. “We saw that starting physical activity after diagnosis is beneficial.”

The message is that it’s never too late to start exercising.  Dr Rikki Cannioto

“So the message is that it’s never too late to start exercising,” she added.

Even a Little Bit Helps

A growing body of evidence has linked physical activity with numerous benefits for cancer patients, including improvement in muscular strength, cardiovascular functioning, and quality of life, and some data suggest that it may confer a survival benefit in survivors.

One recent study, for example, found that among patients with stage III colon cancer whose lifestyle was considered highly consistent with the American Cancer Society guidelines on diet and exercise, there was a 42% lower relative risk for death.

In this study, Cannioto and colleagues examined the joint associations of pre- and postdiagnosis physical activity with mortality in 5807 patients who were diagnosed with cancer at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center from 2003 to 2016.

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