A recent study showed that middle aged men with high fitness levels have lower risks of developing 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.
According to previous studies, the association between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) has been well-established, but the value of CRF as a predictor of primary cancer has received less attention.
Susan Lakoski from the University of Vermont in Burlington along with colleagues looked at the connection between incident cancer, midlife CRF and survival after 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 analyzed.
Participants in the study were under surveillance for a period of 6.5 years and from the total 13,949 individuals analyzed, 1,310 were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 200 with lung cancer and 181 with colorectal cancer.
Researchers found evidence that high CRF values in midlife are related to lower chances of developing colorectal and lung cancer. While it was unclear why this association was not found in men with prostate cancer and midlife CRF, researchers suspect that it could be associated with the fact that 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.