Cancer: What Midlife Men Should Know

Important news for middle aged men. Even modest fitness improvements appear to bring down disease risk according to new research. As you’ve heard, fitness has a huge impact on your chances of getting serious diseases, including cancer. This latest research finds that men who were considered fit in their 40s, 50s and 60s were less apt to get lung or colorectal cancer decades later on in life.

According to Dr. Susan Lakoski, who is an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Vermont, other research has found that physical activity protects against certain cancers, but fewer studies have looked at the impact of fitness to see if fit men would get or die from cancer. This current study was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

To conduct the work, Lakoski and her team examined over 17,000 men who had one cardiovascular fitness assessment as part of a preventive checkup at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas TX when they were 50 years old, on average. The subjects walked on a treadmill under a workout that involved changing speed and incline. The results were categorized into five different groups from lowest fitness to highest fitness levels. Later the team looked at Medicare claims to find the subjects who had gotten any of three common cancers, lung, colorectal or prostate.

The average follow up period of the study was 20 to 25 years, and during those years 2,332 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 276 were found to have colorectal cancer and 277 developed lung cancer. Also 769 of the subject men died, 347 from cancer, 159 of heart disease, 263 from other causes. The men who were the most fit on that treadmill test, compared to the least fit, had a 68% lower risk of lung cancer, a 38% lower risk of colorectal cancer. The prostate cancer risk didn’t go down with improved fitness, but the risk of dying from it did.

As you might expect, the lower fitness levels raised the risk of cancer and heart disease, even if a man was not obese. The researchers also accounted for factors that can increase cancer risk, like smoking habits and age.

Continues below…


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Cancer: What Midlife Men Should Know Continued…

What’s more, even a little improvement in fitness level helped the body. You don’t have to be highly fit to get some benefit. Moving out of the least fit group was the most protective against both cancer and heart disease. What you’re after is a moderately intense level of activity for 150 minutes a week; vigorous workouts should be 75 minutes per week. A combination of the two intensities also works.

Experts have no explanation for the protective effect of fitness, and the current study suggests a link between fitness and cancer protection, not a cause and effect relationship. Many mechanisms are likely at work here – so until we know more it will be hard to say for certain that fitness and cancer protection are related.

In the meantime, if you’re middle aged and struggling to keep active, don’t give up. There’s never been a more important time in your life to try and be as fit as you can. Midlife fitness really can pay off, both for your brain and for your body. So it’s important that you make time for exercise, for yourself, in all the hustle and bustle of your daily routine. If you don’t, who will?

To your good health,