More evidence of bowel cancer exercise benefit

In collaboration with the Press Association

Two papers published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology this month add weight to the idea that people with bowel cancer might benefit from regular exercise.

It has long been known that people who take regular exercise are at lower risk of getting the disease but over the past few years, research has suggested that exercise might also help beat bowel cancer .

The studies, carried out by a team at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in the US, looked at people with bowel cancer who undertook activities such as walking, gardening, jogging, and sports.

The first study followed 832 patients with stage III bowel cancer, who had enrolled on a chemotherapy trial between 1999 and 2001. The patients were asked questions about how much exercise they took during the trial, and for 6 months afterwards.

The study found that those who took the most exercise, equivalent to between three and six hours per week of walking at an average pace, were more likely to be alive at the end of the study.

The other study looked at 573 women from a large-scale study called the Nurses Health Study, and who had since been diagnosed with stage I, II or III bowel cancer.

The women were asked about how much exercise they took when they enrolled on the study in 1986. They were then asked again when they were diagnosed with bowel cancer, and again in 2004 when the study ended.

Analysing the results showed that women who took the most exercise, again equivalent to between three and six hours per week of walking at an average pace, were more likely to be alive at the end of the study period, and less likely to have their cancer come back.

The study also showed that these benefits were conferred on people who increased their exercise levels after being diagnosed with cancer, rather than just on people who lead a healthy life before diagnosis.

The studies were designed to take factors such as sex, weight, age and treatment type into account.

Find out more about exercise and cancer on CancerHelp UK