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a very interesting fact....

Posts: 130
Joined: Sep 2004

Exercise May Lower Risk of Colon Cancer's Return
Walking at a Normal Pace or Faster Works, Study Finds

Article date: 2005/06/13

Colon cancer survivors whose activities equal an hour-long walk each day may be less likely to have their cancer return and less likely to die than survivors who get little physical activity, according to a new report from the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB).

It's the first strong evidence that certain levels of activity may improve colon cancer survival rates -- and it builds on earlier studies showing that exercise helps lower the risk of developing the disease.

"This study, along with others, is a reflection that in addition to chemotherapy, there are potential lifestyle changes that we can recommend for survivorship," said lead researcher Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Meyerhardt presented the study findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Orlando last month. The results have not yet been published in a medical journal, a next step that requires experts to review and verify the research methods used.

Focus on Colon Cancer Patients with Lymph Node Involvement
The CALGB study included over 800 men and women, ages 21 – 85, diagnosed with stage III colon cancer (cancer that had spread beyond the colon to a few nearby lymph nodes but had not yet spread to other organs). After having surgery, all participants in the study went on to receive adjuvant chemotherapy, which is designed to help protect against a cancer recurrence.

Each person completed a questionnaire midway through the adjuvant chemotherapy and again 6 months after it ended. Only those who completed both questionnaires and were free of cancer at the time of the second questionnaire were eligible for the study. Their health has been followed for up to 3 years since.

Detailed information about many physical activities was collected in the later survey, when people were likely to have resumed their normal lifestyles. Activities included walking, climbing stairs, jogging, bicycling, tennis, swimming, and other aerobic exercises, as well as lower-intensity activities like yoga or stretching, and vigorous chores like lawn mowing.

Helpful Activities: Climbing Stairs, Swimming, Calisthenics, and More
When researchers checked the participants' health between 2 and 3 years later, those who reported doing moderate physical activities on a regular basis had cut their risk of cancer recurrence or death by 40% – 50% compared with the less active study members. This benefit held true despite differences in age, gender, height, or weight.

If these findings are confirmed, people with colon cancer could gain a new method to help lower their risk of recurrence -- a method that is under their own control and has many additional health benefits.

Meyerhardt's research suggests survivors would need at least 6 hours per week of moderately-paced walking at 2 – 3 mph.

Or a combination of activities done for 3-6 hours per week could be enough, as long as the overall effort was about the same or greater than moderately-paced walking.

A Few Moderate Physical Activities:

Washing and waxing a car 45-60 minutes
Washing windows or floors 45-60 minutes
Social dancing 30 minutes
Pushing a stroller 1 ½ miles 20 minutes
Raking leaves 30 minutes
Water aerobics 30 minutes

Source: Good for You! Reducing Your Risk of Developing Cancer

"The good news about this," said Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society, "is that the majority of people are able to walk at this pace – you don't have to feel as though you need to train for a marathon to see real health benefits."

In the study, other activities that were linked with better survival rates included at least 3 hours per week of jogging (at a pace slower than a 10 minute mile), tennis, swimming, calisthenics, and using a stair-stepping machine.

Should People Begin Exercising at Diagnosis?
"We've known that exercise can have a positive effect on cancer survivors by reducing depression and anxiety, boosting self esteem, and even reducing fatigue," Doyle said. "Studies suggesting that exercise can reduce cancer recurrence and improve survival rates reinforce an important message: Dependent on ability, cancer survivors should be encouraged to be more active on a regular basis."

Meyerhardt said exercise may one day become part of a patient's prescription once diagnosed with cancer. "I think if these results are confirmed, they provide a recommendation that we (doctors) should provide patients after the diagnosis of colon cancer in addition to standard treatments."

Despite the fact that many individuals -- with cancer and without -- struggle to exercise, Meyerhardt is optimistic that results such as these will encourage physical activity. "I am hopeful for both their cancer and for other overall health benefits."

Doyle says the bottom line is simple: Engage in a form of physical activity that you enjoy and do it regularly. There are few things that physical activity isn't good for.

Additional Resources
Make Exercise Work for You
How to Fit Physical Activities Into Your Day
Target Heart Rate Calculator

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

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shmurciakova's picture
Posts: 910
Joined: Dec 2002

Thank you! That is very encouraging, considering that I do exercise already. Even though this article mentions that the study patients had no other organ involvement, I am sure it would apply to all of us.

goldfinch's picture
Posts: 737
Joined: Oct 2003

Hi Julia,
Thank you for an interesting item. I have to admit I look at these studies with a jaded eye now. I was exercising (brisk walking or swimming, strength traing and yoga) regularly for years (20 or more) and eating my nine servings of vegies/fruit per day. My coworkers would make fun of me. I ate very little red meat (Once a month or less). Yet I still came done with stage 4 rectal CA.
I continue to exercise, when symptoms from chemo and surgery (surgery was done in Nov, but i have seen gi issues with it), permit. Yoga for now. I find that helps the most with the gi problems. And I continue to eat my vegies, but i frankly have developed a taste for red meat and eat it a bit more frequently now (good for those low blood counts). Of course even the studies don't say your risk is illiminated. They just say your risk is reduced.

Good possibilities persists. I will continue to exercise (I've been building strength and cen now do an hours worth when i have the time) I may comsider adding walking soon. It will have to be on my treadmill, since I'm reluctant to get far from the br (even the treadmill is far away, but at least it's in the house). I will do what I need to beat this.
Anyway...thanks for the food for thought.

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Thank you Jules....there has to be some truth in the research and not only for cancer patients. I am sure that many here would agree that on the other side of the coin many elderly people; ie;..over 70 are adamant that in their older life they are much happier to be active than to sit around all day with very little activity. Many cultures have the elderly continuing to be active, not necessarily thru choice but necessity. For instance in 3rd world countries where it is a great need to continue working just to survive. These older ones seem to reach very high ages compared to the western world. I am absolutely astounded that some farmers over here continue "hard" work on their farms well into their 70's and 80's and they love doing it providing their health allows it.
I guess that is another way of looking at things. Maybe, as in the research you have shown us, the body regenerates better, providing we do everything in moderation.....including excercise.

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