A recent study showed that middle aged men with high fitness levels have lower risks of developing lung and colorectal cancer. Further, higher fitness levels are associated with lower death rates in men diagnosed with cancer in older age. The study was published in JAMA Oncology.
Previous studies have already explored the connection between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), however the value of CRF has received less attention in its role as a primary cancer predictor.
Susan Lakoski, a researcher from the University of Vermont in Burlington, along with colleagues assessed the relationship between midlife CRF, incident cancer and survival after receiving a cancer diagnosis at the age of 65 and older. The study enrolled 13,949 men who underwent a baseline fitness exam and had their CRF values assessed using a treadmill test. Fitness levels were studied between the period of 1971 and 2009, and Medicare data on lung, colorectal and prostate cancers between 1999 and 2009 were also used.
Patients analyzed in the study were under surveillance for a period of 6.5 years. Among the total men who enrolled the study, 200 were diagnosed with lung cancer, 1,310 with prostate cancer and 181 received a diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
Researchers observed that midlife high CRF values were associated with decreased chances of both lung cancer and colorectal cancer when compared to men with low CRF values. While it was unclear why this association was not found in men with prostate cancer and midlife CRF, researchers suspect that it could be because men with high CRF values typically undergo more preventive screenings for prostate cancer, allowing for earlier cancer detection.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that CRF is predictive of site-specific cancer incidence, as well as risk of death from cancer or CVD following a cancer diagnosis. These findings provide further support for the effectiveness of CRF assessment in preventive health care settings. Future studies are required to determine the absolute level of CRF necessary to prevent site-specific cancer as well as evaluating the long-term effect of cancer diagnosis and mortality in women,” the authors concluded.