By Dr. Mercola
That exercise is crucial for optimal health is nothing new. But did you know it’s also a powerful strategy to reduce your risk for cancer? It can also improve your chances of remission and recovery should you develop cancer.
Well over 100 studies have looked at the role of physical activity on cancer prevention1 and they reveal a distinct pattern: the longer you exercise, the more pronounced the benefits.
Studies show that people who exercise during their early years have a lower risk of cancer later in life.
The degree to which exercise cuts your cancer risk varies depending on the type of cancer and other factors, but the data shows physically active individuals have a 20 to 55 percent lower risk of cancer than their sedentary peers. For example, compared to inactive people, active men and/or women have a:
- 20 to 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer2
- 38 percent reduced risk of invasive breast cancers3
- 30 to 40 percent lower risk of colon cancer4
- 44 percent lower risk of bowel cancer after the age of 655
- 55 percent lower risk of lung cancer6
Exercise Lowers Your Risk of at Least a Dozen Different Cancers
Most recently, an analysis of 12 studies that included data from 1.4 million people of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds from both the U.S. and Europe over the course of 11 years found that those who exercised more had, on average, a 7 percent lower risk of developing ANY kind of cancer. As reported by Time Magazine:7
“[T]he reduced risk was especially striking for 13 types of cancers. People who were more active had on average a 20 percent lower risk of cancers of the esophagus, lung, kidney, stomach, endometrium and others compared with people who were less active …
‘Everybody knows physical activity reduces heart disease risk,’ says [lead author Steven] Moore [Ph.D.]. ‘The takeaway here is that physical activity might reduce the risk of cancers as well.
Cancer is a very feared disease, but if people understand that physical activity can influence their risk for cancer, then that might provide yet one more motivating factor to become active.'”
How Exercise Combats Cancer
So just how does exercise prevent cancer? Research shows there are many pathways and mechanisms at play; a synergistic orchestra of chemical reactions if you will, triggered by physical exertion.
When I first read about the exercise and cancer connection nearly 30 years ago, I was surprised and had no idea what the mechanism was. But here’s a sampling of what science has discovered in the last few decades. Exercise decreases your risk of cancer by affecting: