Regular exercise is known to improve cardiovascular function and to reduce the risk or lessen the impact of stress, depression, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, as well as obesity and certain forms of diabetes. An international collaborative research from the US, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, and the UK now shows that regular exercise can prevent many forms of cancer.
In the new study, people who exercised the most had fewer cancers of the breast, bladder, rectum, colon, head and neck, and myeloma (by 10-17%), and even fewer myeloid leukemia and endometrial, stomach, kidney, lung, and liver cancers (by 20-27%). The most impressive results in this group were observed in esophageal cancers, which were reduced by 42% in those who exercised the most.
In this study, people exercise habits and cancer rates (186,932 diagnosed cancers) were tracked over a period of 11 years. One does not know whether these trends would hold over a longer period of time, or whether they would improve or instead worsen. However, the very large study included 1.44 million people in the US and Europe, and showed that the beneficial effects of exercise on cancer rates were mostly independent of several factors such as body mass index and smoking (except for lung cancers in the later case). The remarkable effects of regular exercise on cancer, therefore, are likely to hold true for most people.
However, a 27% increase in skin cancers was also observed in those who exercised the most, in all likelihood as a result of increased sun exposure during outdoor exercise (example: see featured picture). This risk can be easily reduced if not prevented by limiting sun skin exposure. This can be achieved by applying sunscreen and wearing sun-protective gear, by exercising before sunrise or after sunset, or by moving some of the workouts indoor.
These remarkable new findings show that outside of smoking and passive smoking, alcoholic beverages drinking, continuous exposure to irradiation, pesticides and other pollutants, and excessive exposure to the sun or other source of UV, lack of regular aerobic activity such as vigorous walking, running, swimming, or biking constitutes one of the leading causes of acquired cancer, at least in Europe and the US (Cancer Epigenetics Society news; May 23, 2016).