Lung cancer: Exercise risk reduction 'marginal' compared to quitting

In collaboration with the Press Association

A study of more than 36,000 women by researchers from the Universities of Minnesota and Pennsylvania found that a high level of physical activity in women who smoked reduced their risk of developing lung cancer by nearly three quarters, compared with smokers who did no exercise. Published in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, the study also found 'moderate' activity among smokers was associated with a 65 per cent risk reduction, and lower relative risks were also seen in former smokers who had moderate or high activity levels. However, the researchers pointed out that despite seeing benefits in exercise, the absolute risk of developing lung cancer is still very large in current and former smokers regardless of activity level. The study's lead author, Kathryn Schmitz, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, explained: "Smokers who exercise are at a 35 per cent lower risk of developing lung cancer relative to smokers who don't exercise, but if you smoke at all, your risk of developing lung cancer is 10- to 11- fold higher than if you didn't smoke."

"The most important thing a smoker can do to reduce risk is to quit smoking. That said, exercising and being active can offer a marginal change in risk," she added. "The helpful message from this study is that if a smoker is having trouble quitting, exercise can be a first step toward better health,"

Read the paper online