A new study (Bonn et al., 2014) published online in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention reported lower rates of all-cause and prostate cancer-specific mortality in men who engaged in regular exercise. Although these findings can’t prove causation, they are a good reminder to move your body with daily physical activity for long-term health – especially after cancer diagnosis.
- This study used data from the National Prostate Cancer Register of Sweden Follow-up study.
- Subjects were 4623 men with localized prostate cancer.
- Men who biked or walked 20 minutes a day or exercised more than one hour per week had a 26% lower rate of mortality. These men also had significantly lower prostate-specific mortality rates.
- Even men who did household work for an hour a day had a 29% lower rate of all-cause mortality. (Bonn et al. 2014)
These findings sound familiar, don’t they? That’s because we’ve been hearing this message over and over again from countless sources. And it’s true: exercise can protect against prostate cancer death. The wonderful thing about exercise is that it’s (almost) always an option, and it has extensively documented benefits for your physical and mental health. It does require you to get out of your comfort zone and get moving. Are you up for the challenge?
Despite the stark difference in prognosis between exercising men and sedentary men in this study, it’s important to remember that this study was not a controlled experiment. It was an observational cohort study, which means that all the researchers did was analyze data that were collected without randomly assigning the participants to different groups. But this study does add to the plethora of research linking exercises to less death rates and better quality of life after prostate cancer – here are two most recent studies:
- Among 2705 men with prostate cancer in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, those who exercised vigorously for 3 or more hours per week had a 61% lower risk of prostate cancer-specific mortality than those with less than 1 h per week of vigorous activity (Kenfield et al. 2011)
- Exercise has also been shown to ameliorate the sexual dysfunction of men undergoing androgen deprivation therapy (hormone therapy) for advanced prostate cancer. (Cormie et al. 2013)
Something I found very uplifting that confirmed my experience with prostate cancer patients was the study author’s remark that it is never too late to improve your prognosis by hitting the gym. As Stephanie Bonn says, “physical activity after a prostate cancer diagnosis is beneficial for survival regardless of the patient’s activity level before the diagnosis.” It doesn’t matter whether you were the ripest couch potato or a lean string bean when you got the news. You’re better off the moment you get up and move.
This article sounds like good news, and it also sounds like old news. It’s old news because by now we are all familiar with the benefits of exercise. It’s also good news for men with prostate cancer because it shows that simply moving your body on a daily basis decreases the risk of all-cause and prostate cancer-specific mortality. So what is the exercise dose for best benefit? 3 hours a week with moderate intensity movement. You have to sweat. Get your heart rate up. Just a walk in a mall is slightly better than nothing but not optimal. And stay moving after your workout.
Bonn, S. E., Sjölander, A., Lagerros, Y. T., Wiklund, F., Stattin, P., Holmberg, E., . . . Bälter, K. (2014). Physical Activity and Survival among Men Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.epi-14-0707
Kenfield SA, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci E, Chan JM. Physical activity and survival after prostate cancer diagnosis in the health professionals follow-up study. J Clin Oncol 2011; 29: 726–32.
Cormie P, Newton RU, Taaffe DR, et al. Exercise maintains sexual activity in men undergoing androgen suppression for prostate cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2013 Jan 15.