Exercise And Your Cancer Risk

As readers of this blog and other articles on my website already know, regular physical exercise is one of the most important and beneficial things that each of us can do to remain healthy and vital in body and mind throughout a long lifetime.  An exciting new study, recently reported on in The New York Times, is now indicating that, in addition to many other benefits,  exercise may lower a person’s risk of developing 14 different types of cancer.

The study, originally published in JAMA Internal Medicine, was conducted by scientists from the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, from Harvard Medical School, and various other institutions around the world.  The researchers relied on a large number of epidemiological studies that had been conducted both in the United States and in Europe, pooling data from twelve large studies involving close to 1.5 million individuals.

When examining the data for the participants’ exercise habits, the researchers looked at such criteria as whether an individual exercised, how vigorously and how often, and tracked whether or not that individual developed any type of cancer during the course of the study.  They were then able to extrapolate what role exercise (and at what intensity) seemed to play in the risk of getting cancer, and found that even moderate exercise appeared to lower the risk of 14 different types of cancers, those of the breast, lung, colon, liver, esophagus, kidney, stomach, endometrium, blood, bone, marrow, head/neck, rectum and bladder.  And the more a person exercised, in moderate or vigorous workouts, the more the risk decreased.

This decreased risk applied even to individuals who were considered overweight or obese — they were at much lower risk of developing one of these cancers than overweight or obese individuals who were sedentary.

The researchers were not sure exactly what was causing the decrease in cancer risk in the exercising individuals, but cited such possible factors as hormone levels, degree of inflammation, digestion and overall energy balance as likely contributors to the protective effects of exercise.

It’s important to note that this was an observational study, so that nothing is “proven”, rather that there seems to be a strong correlation between more exercise and less cancer.  The very good news here, though, is that exercise is one thing that we can control, is available to all of us in one form or another, has very few side effects,  doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and produces so many other positive effects on our health, mental state and vitality.  I myself am an avid exerciser, and can’t imagine my life without it.

Please note:  If you are not currently my patient, and have been sedentary or not participating in a lot of physical activity, it is essential that you check with your physician and have him or her assess your readiness to undertake an exercise program.  If you are my patient, or are a prospective patient, I would be happy to check you out and make some suggestions on exercising tailored to your individual needs and health status.  For an appointment, please contact my office at (310) 315-5483.




Dr. Allen gives free lectures at the Library three to four times each year, on topics of interest from the cutting edge of integrative medicine.  If you would like to be added to our mailing list for these lectures and his other speaking engagements, please email da@davidallenmd.com.