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new study published last week in the peer-reviewed science journal JOMA Oncology revealed that men in their 40’s are less likely to suffer from lung or colorectal cancer if they are fit.

The study looked at 14,000 men in Texas aged between 46 and 50, and initially tested their cardio-respiratory fitness using an exhaustive treadmill test. Then between 1971 and 2009 their fitness levels were tested at regular intervals (approximately 6.5 years). Between 1999 and 2009, 1,310 of the men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 200 with lung cancer and 181 with colorectal cancer.

It was found that the men with higher levels of fitness reduced their risk of getting lung cancer by 55% and colorecteal cancer by 44% in contrast to the men who had lower levels of fitness (who took longer than 12 minutes to run/walk a mile). It was also found that fitness seemed to have no bearing on the incidence of prostate cancer in middle-age men.

The authors, led by Dr Susan Lakoski, from the University of Vermont in the US, wrote in the journal JAMA Oncology: “To our knowledge this is the first study to demonstrate that CRF is predictive of site-specific cancer incidence, as well as risk of death from cancer or CVD (cardiovascular disease) following a cancer diagnosis.”

 

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Tom Stansfeld, health information officer at Cancer Research UK stated: “Investigating links between men’s fitness levels and cancer risk, rather than just the amount of physical activity they do, is a new approach.

As well as fitness the study also took into consideration the major risk factors for cancer, such as smoking and blood pressure. However, diet was not considered. What people eat and drink has been proven to positively or negatively affect the risk of cancer. The fitter participants in the study more than likely ate well also and this probably account for the reduction in risk, but to what level we can’t be sure.

Surprisingly the study also concluded that the men in the fitter group were more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than the men in the less fit group. This was possibly believe to be because the fitter men tended to go for more screenings (and therefore be diagnosed more often) than the unfit men. Additionally, the study authors also stated that the men in the fittest group would live longer and that cancer of the prostate is possibly an age-related disease.