Because each cancer type is different in origin, composition, and responsiveness to treatment, reliable prevention techniques are very difficult to identify. Evidence that an activity or dietary item prevents cancer is difficult to confirm because the goal of cancer prevention is to produce an outcome where nothing changes (i.e. cancer does not develop). Additionally, because cancer prevention cannot usually be accomplished by a single event, preventative measures must be taken for many years to give results that can be examned. Even if something is shown to help prevent a certain type of cancer, there is no guarantee that eating or behaving in a certain way will absolutely assure freedom from cancer development.
Much of the evidence for cancer prevention is not definitive. As an example, a diet low in fat 12but high in fiber 34, fruits and vegetables 56has been associated with lower risks for several cancers. There have also been a number of studies that have shown no connection between these kinds of diets and reduced cancer cases 789. Exercise has been shown to reduce cancer occurrence in some studies; in others, exercise does not seem to make a difference 1011.
Despite the conflicting evidence, the National Cancer Institute contends that the best way to help prevent cancer is to exercise, as well as eat a low calorie diet containing fiber, fruits, and vegetables. They also suggest that people should avoid a sedentary lifestyle, animal fats, and grilled meats to lessen the risk of developing cancer 12. Research suggests that a combination of different essential nutrients is better than consuming a large amount of a single item. 13
Another way to help prevent cancer is to avoid behaviors that are generally accepted to increase your risk of cancer. Some of the behaviors linked to cancer development are tobacco use 141516, alcohol consumption 1718, obesity 171920, and sun exposure. 2122A study on Swedish families shows that an increased risk of cancer is more associated with environmental factors, diet and exercise rather than heredity. 23The American Cancer Society suggests that a third of all American cancer deaths are linked to poor diet and lack of exercise. Additionally, another third of all cancer deaths are preventable by avoiding tobacco products. 24The World Health Organization believes that 40% of cancer deaths world-wide could be prevented with proper diet, exercise, and tobacco avoidance. 25
View a 2015-2016 American Cancer Society publication on cancer prevention statistics.
In addition to these general guidelines, there are several specific compounds that have exhibited evidence that they may contribute to cancer prevention. 26
The following cancer prevention methods are described below in more detail.
- Plant Products (Phytochemicals)
- Cancer Vaccines
- Cervical Cancer Vaccines
- Liver Cancer Vaccines (Hepatitis Vaccines)
- Cancer Prevention Tables
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Exercise and Cancer Risk
- What is physical activity?
- Epidemiology of activity and cancer prevention.
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Endometrial cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Kidney (renal) cancer
- How does exercise reduce cancer risk?
- Sex hormones
- Insulin levels
- Immune function
- Oxygen radicals (redox) signaling
- micro-RNAs (miRNAs) and gene activity
- Racial differences in exercise-cancer risk reduction
What is physical activity?
Physical activity is defined as using skeletal muscles to exert more energy than simply resting in place, try out fit after 50 for men.
Physical activity takes many forms, from a daily stroll to heavy weightlifting. The majority of international guidelines recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical exercise for a healthy adult. Preferably, exercise should be spread out throughout the week Research suggests that a range of health benefits can be achieved from being more physically active.28
Exercise can cause many changes in the human body. The types of changes depend on the amount and type of exercise. Exercise increases the amount of blood pumped by the heart (called cardiac output). This, in turn, leads to increased oxygen and blood flow. The increased heart rate also triggers the release of hormones. The adrenal glands, responsible for the release of epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), get activated. Exercise results in temporary elevation in lactate (produced by the breakdown of sugar in muscles), increased blood pressure, elevated blood glucose levels, and enhanced immune function. Exercise also speeds up metabolism and glucose consumption. Taken together, the effects of exercise are thought to reduce cancer risk.29
Epidemiology of Cancer and Exercise
Physical activity is strongly associated with lower risk of cancer at seven sites: bladder, colon, breast, endometrial, lung, esophageal, kidney, and stomach gastric. Physical activity has also been linked to reductions in pancreatic and ovarian cancer. Check out the latest nutrisystem reviews.
Examples of the links between exercise and specific cancers include:
Physical activity has been linked to reducing the risk of bladder cancer. Further research on outside factors must be made to confirm the association.31
Women with a family history of breast cancer, who engage in regular exercise have a reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. The impact of exercise on the risk of premenopausal cancer is currently being studied.32
Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, especially among people who are overweight or obese.33
Although further studies are needed to measure the level of risk reduction and specific type of physical activity, moderate exercise is associated with reduced risk for endometrial cancer.34
Although existing studies indicate that physical activity offers protection against esophageal and gastric cancer, further research must be done to assess the intensity of the exercise needed to obtain the benefit.35
Kidney (Renal) Cancer
An older, 2013, review of the existing research came to the conclusion that physical activity may decrease the risk of kidney cancer by up to 22%. Research to determine the intensity, frequency, and duration of exercise needed to reduce kidney cancer is ongoing.36
How Does Exercise Reduce Cancer Risk?
Although the association between exercise and reduced cancer risk is clear, many gaps remain in our understanding of how exercise reduces cancer risk. So far, research has identified mostly changes in pathways critical to the to the development of cancer. Much like increased cholesterol is an indicator of possible heart disease, a number of ‘biomarkers’ have been found that link exercise to reduced cancer risk.37
Exercise lowers sex hormone levels.
Estrogen is a female sex hormone that maintains the female reproductive system. While estrogen is essential for the female body, women with elevated levels of estrogen and other sex hormones (androgens) are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer (7). Research has shown that exercise of sufficient frequency and intensity causes significant decreases in levels of these hormones.