In honor of this amazing event and it’s impact on blood cancer research, today I’m going to discuss the relationships between cancer risk and exercise. While I usually like to give one specific/actionable health tip to my readers each week, today your tip is to just be sure you’re active because firefighters are already at an increased risk of developing cancer compared to the general population.
While even those with healthy habits may develop cancer, it has been shown across the board that people who exercise are less likely to. While this is likely true for all types of cancer, the strongest relationships have been shown between exercise and breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancers. This is encouraging since prostate and colon cancer are two of the greatest killers in men while breast cancer is that of women. Even more inspiring is that exercise has protective effects against cancer development even for people who are overweight (although exercising in combination with having a healthy weight would lower risk of cancer development to the greatest degree).
While people tend to understand that exercise is “good for you,” they may not realize that researchers are constantly identifying direct mechanisms by which exercise reduces risk of certain diseases, cancer included. For example, we know that exercise reduces risk of colon cancer because it decreases gut transit time (of food) and therefore reduces the amount of time that harmful toxins are hanging out in the colon waiting to be excreted. There are other direct mechanisms involving the body’s hormonal and inflammatory responses that reduce a person’s risk for developing cancer when they exercise.
We don’t know exactly how much exercise is needed to reduce risk of cancer but research suggests that it may be a little bit more (around 30 – 60 minutes per day) than what is required to reduce risk of heart disease and diabetes (a total of 150 minutes per week). It is clear, however, that increasing levels of exercise are associated with further reductions in cancer risk.
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