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Role of Physical Activity in Cancer

Cancer is a condition that arises when body cells from a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissues including organs resulting in a series of health problems. Today there are over 200 types of cancer where each has a distinct diagnosis and treatment method. One thing that has been observed with both cancer patients and survivors is decreased physical fitness. The reduced physical fitness is secondary to the health side effects of the disease and treatment. It is also worth noting that cancer survivors are at high risks of negative health and psychosocial effects due to treatment involved. Besides people with cancer, lack of enough and regular physical activity is the leading risk factor of mortality worldwide. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests regular and tailored exercises decrease the risks of many cancers as well as promote healthy living for cancer patients and survivors. This article outlines some of the benefits of regular physical activities in cancer.

Regular, moderate, and tailored physical activities are not only beneficial to cancer patients following treatment but also during treatment to help with negative side effects secondary to the treatment itself. Regular exercises positively influence both physical and psychosocial factors such as low mood, stress, and fatigue. Physical activities slow individual loss of independence due to deteriorating physical strength associated with cancer as well as its treatment. Other benefits of regular exercises include maintaining healthy body weight, anti-thrombotic effects decreasing platelet adhesiveness, increased HDL cholesterol, lower risks of NIDDM as well as reduced risks of other diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions, hypertension, and osteoporosis.

Regular physical activities can act as a preventive measure for cancer. Exercises have been linked to reduced risks of cancers such as colon, breast, prostate, and endometrial and other cancers associated with increased body weight. Moderate and regular exercises also prevent the re-occurrence of the same cancers. The most viable and long term strategy for cancer prevention is the modification of environmental and lifestyle factors. Epidemiology studies have demonstrated that risks of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers are 25-50% low in people who exercise regularly. There is also emerging evidence of a positive relationship between ovarian, GI, lung cancers, and physical activities in cancer prevention. For effective cancer prevention 4-5 hours of exercise in a week is required. The reduced risk is associated with insulin resistance, metabolic hormone levels, endogenous sex, inflammation, growth factors, and improved immune function.

Engaging in regular physical activity reduces obesity and central adipose tissue which are risk factors for endometrial, colon, esophageal, and postmenopausal cancers. Obesity increases the risk of cancer by shifting the balance of sex and metabolic hormone in the body. This affects insulin resistance, growth factors, energy-related body signaling, and inflammatory pathways. Studies of lung cancer patients suggest that rehabilitation professionals and clinical exercise physiologists can provide complementary skills set that are core in optimizing patient care for cancer rehabilitation. Moderate regular exercises that are tailored to individual physical capabilities are sure way not only in cancer prevention but also in healthy recovery and maintenance of good physical health. Those are some roles of physical activity in cancer.

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