Staying Active May Improve Prostate Cancer Prognosis

Men with prostate cancer were less likely to die of the disease if they exercised.

Maintaining an exercise routine, or even launching a new one, may improve outcomes for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

A study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2016 in New Orleans found that prostate cancer patients and survivors who maintain a moderate to high level of physical activity had a lower risk of prostate cancer-specific mortality (PCSM).

Ying Wang, PhD, senior epidemiologist in the Epidemiology Research Program at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, led a study of 10,067 men with non-metastatic prostate cancer, all of whom were part of the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.

The men, who were aged 50 to 93 at the time of their diagnosis, reported the amount of time they spent engaged in recreational physical activity and the amount of time spent sitting or engaging in sedentary activities like reading or driving. Physical activity included walking, dancing, bicycling, aerobics, jogging or running, lap swimming, tennis, or racquetball.

Researchers found that the men who exercised the most before receiving their diagnosis had a 30 percent lower risk of PCSM compared with those who exercised the least.

A similar benefit existed for men who exercised after receiving their diagnosis: The group who exercised the most had a 34 percent lower risk of dying of the disease than those who exercised the least. Also, Dr. Wang said, the men benefited whether they were maintaining an exercise regimen they were already used to or undertaking a new one.

You don’t need to transform yourself into an elite athlete to get the health benefits. About 40 percent of patients in the study said walking was the only form of recreational physical activity they did, so Dr. Wang and colleagues also took a look at the benefits of walking as the sole form of exercise. Walking for four to six hours per week before diagnosis was associated with a 33 percent lower risk of PCSM, and walking for seven or more hours per week was associated with a 37 percent lower risk. No statistically significant association was observed with walking after diagnosis.

“Our results support evidence that prostate cancer survivors should adhere to physical activity guidelines, and suggest that physicians should consider promoting a physically active lifestyle to their prostate cancer patients,” Dr. Wang said.

The AACR has previously published studies in which researchers found several other ways that exercise can improve health, from conferring lifelong health benefits to easing pain to reducing risk of certain cancer types.