Getting in shape may help middle-aged men stave off cancer

Fitness

There are countless health benefits that come with keeping fit. Now new research is linking midlife fitness to improved mortality for men later in life. More specifically, guys who are in better shape during midlife may significantly reduce their odds of later dying from lung or colorectal cancers.

Researchers say the findings show just how important fitness estimates are, even 10 to 20 years before a cancer diagnosis.

The Cooper Center Longitudinal Study included cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) data for nearly 14,000 men. Researchers report that men with high midlife CRF who developed lung, colorectal or prostate cancers later in life lowered their mortality risk by 32 percent. More specifically, a strong inverse relationship was particularly observed between high midlife CRF and incidences of lung and colorectal cancers. (Interestingly, the same relationship was not reported for prostate cancer.)

Even so, for men who were diagnosed with cancer after the age of 65, those who had been in good shape during midlife also lowered their risk of cardiovascular death by a whopping 68 percent when compared to guys who’d had low CRF.

The findings point to the potential predictive value of cardiorespiratory fitness when it comes to cancer.

“Future studies are needed to test these results across all major cancers in men and women, and to address how much an individual must change their fitness to see cancer prevention benefit,” says Susan Lakoski, M.D., the researcher and clinician at the University of Vermont Cancer Center who led the research.

Her partners were investigators within the Cooper Institute in Dallas.

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