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Vigorous Exercise Cuts Lethal Prostate Cancer Risk

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer that affects men (the first is skin cancer). Treatment success rates
are high for most prostate cancers; however, an aggressive form of prostate cancer is considered lethal. A new study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard has found that certain lifestyle factors—including vigorous exercise—can minimize the risk of developing the lethal type of this disease.

The researchers studied the records of 42,701 men, aged 40–75, in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) from 1986 to 2010, and 20,324 men, aged 40–84, in the Physicians’ Health Study (PHS) from 1982 to 2010. From there they determined scores based on exercise habits, smoking, BMI and intake of fatty fish, tomatoes and processed meat. These scores were compared against the incident of lethal prostate cancer among the subjects.

Men in the HPFS who exercised hard enough to break a sweat; were tobacco-free for at least 10 years; had a healthy BMI; ate plenty of tomatoes and fatty fish; and avoided processed meat had a 68% lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer than those who engaged in opposing behaviors. The men with the healthiest scores in the PHS group showed a 38% lower risk than the lowest scoring men. Vigorous exercise appeared to produce the greatest benefit, compared with each of the other variables, explained the authors.

“It’s interesting that vigorous activity had the highest potential impact on prevention of lethal prostate cancer,” said Stacey Kenfifield, ScD, assistant professor in the department of urology at UCSF Medical Center. “We calculated the population-attributable risk for American men over 60 and estimated that 34% of lethal prostate cancer would be reduced if all men exercised to the point of sweating for at least three hours a week.”

Eating at least one serving of fatty fifish and seven servings of tomatoes per week could cut the risk by 17% and 15%, respectively, Kenfifield added.

The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2015; 108 [3], djv329).

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