Research

New Guidelines Urge ‘Exercise Prescriptions’ to Help Prevent Cancer, Improve Treatments

New guidelines published by apanel of experts urge physicians to “prescribe” exercise to help reduce therisk of certain cancers — and improve the treatment outcomes and quality oflife of patients undergoing cancer treatments.

The benefits of regular exercise to reach or maintain a healthy weight, combat chronic disease and generally live longer are well established. But the new guidance goes further. Exercise oncology experts recommend systematic use of an “exercise prescription” by healthcare providers and fitness professionals “to lower the risk of developing certain cancers and best meet the needs, preferences and abilities of people with cancer.”

Exercise oncology services help patients develop a healthier, more active lifestyle during and after cancer treatment.

The guidance, publishedthis month, concludes that exercise can contribute to the prevention of bladder,breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and uterine cancer. Therecommendations also state exercise can help improve survival rates forpatients with breast, colon, and prostate cancer — and improve their quality oflife, including a reduction in side effects from cancer treatment.

The panel making the recommendations included experts from the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, and more than a dozen other groups.

“These recommendations aredesigned to help cancer patients incorporate physical activity into theirrecuperation, and they’re an important reminder that all adults should striveto be as physically active as their abilities allow for cancer prevention,”said Alpa Patel, Ph.D., senior scientific director of epidemiology research atthe American Cancer Society, in aprepared statement by the American College of Sports Medicine and theAmerican Cancer Society.

Exercising during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, and quality of life, and does not exacerbate lymphedema, localized swelling of the body usually in the arms or legs, the experts say.

A large study three years ago, ledby the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society, found thatleisure-time physical activity appears to provide potent anti-cancer benefits.

“Althoughthe precise biological mechanism by which physical activity mitigates cancerrisk remains unclear, its impact is compelling and should empower all of us totake an active role in promoting our health and wellness,” said M. Beatriz Currier, M.D., medical director for cancer support services at Miami Cancer Institute.

Theanalysis, published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found that people who were active 150 minutes a week — the equivalentof just 30 minutes a day, five days a week — had a reduced risk of manycancers. The more active people were, the more protective the effect ofswimming, walking, playing sports and just plain moving.

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