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June 2, 2012 | 2 minute read

Moving Research for Cancer Survivors Day

I’ve been listening to a lot of research about exercise here at the American College of Sports Medicine conference and for cancer survivors, the evidence is heartening: activity may help survivors’ health.

One of the latest major published studies mentioned here links physical activity to a longer life among breast and colon cancer patients. Exercise may also lengthen the life of other cancer survivors, but the evidence for that is not as clear, the study concluded.

The analysis comes ahead of the 25th annual National Cancer Survivors Day, which is this Sunday. It was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The authors looked at all relevant studies published from 1950 to 2011, ending up with a total of 45 articles. The studies focused on physical activity, and cancer survival and/or biological indicators – biomarkers – of survival.

Among the 27 observational studies focusing on cancer mortality, the majority looked at breast cancer survivors. The evidence was consistent. Physical activity either before or after diagnosis linked to reduced mortality from both cancer specifically and from any other cause. Some evidence suggested that the more women exercised, the lower their risk of an earlier death..

The evidence for colorectal cancer was also strong, finding that activity also decreased risk of death from cancer and any other cause. The analysis found that exercise may also improve insulin levels, inflammation and other biomarkers linked to cancer, but the evidence is still preliminary.

This analysis builds on previous reviews of the literature, including a 2010 report finding that exercise was safe for cancer survivors. That analysis led to guidelines for survivors with one basic message – avoid inactivity. We wrote about that here.

At the ongoing ACSM conference, it’s clear the research on exercise and survivorship is growing rapdily. Researchers presented data on how exercise helps survivors of ovarian, endometrial, and head and neck cancers. Much of the research is preliminary and there are several large studies in the works. And as the researchers all point out, more studies are needed, specifically on how much and what type of exercise is most effective.

There’s more on the way. And we’ll report the studies as they come.

To find events and information for tomorrow, visit the National Cancer Survivors Day site.

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