Physical activity and prostate cancer risk

A new study by an international team of researchers has further endorsed the value of regular exercise and activity in the long-term prevention of prostate cancer.

Orsini et al. studied data from a prospective cohort of 45,887 men aged between 45 and 79 years who were followed from January 1998 to December 2007 for prostate cancer incidence (n=2,735) and to December 2006 for its subtypes and for fatal (n=190) prostate cancer.

Their study showed the following:

  • Prostate cancer risk was inversely related to total levels of lifetime physical activity.
  • Men in the highest 25 percent (quartile) of total lifetime physical activity had a 16 percent lower risk for a diagnosis of prostate cancer compared to the men in the lowest quartile.
  • Prostate cancer risk was also inversely related to average lifetime work or occupational activity and to walking or bicycling duration.
  • Compared with men who have a highly sedentary occupation, men who sit half of the time had a 20 percent lower risk for prostate cancer.
  • The rate ratio decreased (in a linear manner) by 7 percent for total risk, by 8 percent for risk for localized disease, and by 12 percent for disease for every 30 minutes per day increment of lifetime walking or bicycling in the range of 30 to 120 minutes per day.

The authors conclude that “not sitting for most of the time during work or occupational activity and walking or bicycling more than 30 min per day during adult life is associated with reduced incidence of prostate cancer.”

Now we should be clear that an overall risk reduction of 7 percent is not huge. If every man in America who exercises for less than 2 hours a day were to increase his daily exercise regimen by 30 minutes, however, this study suggests that the number of newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients each year in the USA would drop from about 190,000 to more like 178,500.

What is perhaps more relevant here is the general fact that exercise is a “good thing” — for one’s cardiovascular system and for one’s risk of at least some forms of cancer. So if you have to sit at a desk for large chunks of the day, make the extra effort to get out of your chair and walk to other people’s offices for that quick conversation — and spend some time every day working off the extra snacks!

The most important message here, however, is one for the next generation. If today’s 20-year-olds maintain a regular pattern of exercise throughout their lives, they will reduce their risks for all sorts of problems that are common in society today — prostate cancer included.

3 Responses

  1. Unfortunately, these results are not likely significant enough to motivate people to become more active. However, besides prostate cancer risk, if we were all willing to put in 30 minutes of activity, per day there are many ways in which that would benefit our overall health and reduce our cancer risks.

  2. Running about 1,000 miles a year for the last 20 years didn’t save me from prostate cancer.

    The irony is that my cardiovascular health is so good, I should live into my 90s, so the low risk disease I currently have could become a factor.

  3. I will be age 72 this month and have been working out (in gym, out on the road on a 10-speed, or hiking mountains) 7 days per week since my 40th birthday, and I still maintain that pace. Like Steve Z in the previous reply, I have a strong cardiovascular system and should live into my 90s, as did both of my parents. The elephant in the room is did the Gleason 7 (4 + 3) T2a prostate cancer stay away from my younger years or would today’s numbers have been worse, had I not been physically active. Since I will never know, I’ll use the rationale that all of that effort will contribute to a more successful cure.

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