Research led by The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences suggests that men with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) face a lower risk of colon and lung cancer but a higher risk of prostate cancer.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, examined 17,709 men across an age range of 18-75 years over a mean follow-up period of 9.6 years.
Fitness Measurement and Findings
CRF was assessed as maximal oxygen consumption, estimated using a submaximal cycle ergometer test, an exercise that stays below 85% of predicted max heart rate and estimates VO2max, the maximum rate (V) of oxygen (O₂) they would have reached their maximum heart rate.
Across the study, there were 499 incident cases of colon cancer, 283 cases of lung cancer, and 1,918 cases of prostate cancer.
Deaths due to colon cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer totaled 152, 207, and 141, respectively.
The study found that higher levels of CRF were linked to a lower risk of colon and lung cancer (2%) and a higher risk of prostate cancer incidence (1%).
However, those with higher CRF had a 5% lower death rate from prostate cancer, despite the higher incidence.
Physical Fitness and Cancer Prevention
The authors emphasize the difference between the behavior of physical activity, often self-reported and subjective, and an objective measurement of the physiological body response known as CRF.
They suggest that higher-intensity physical activity, which significantly affects CRF, can be even more protective against the risk of developing and dying from certain cancers.
In theoretical calculations, the researchers suggest that avoiding very low CRF levels could prevent 4-8% of all colon cancer cases, 4% of all lung cancer deaths, and 4-19% of prostate cancer deaths.
The key takeaway from the study is that regardless of age, higher CRF is associated with a lower risk for colon cancer incidence, lung cancer incidence, and reduced colon, lung, and prostate cancer death.
This research highlights the importance of maintaining a high level of physical fitness, as it can significantly reduce the risk of specific cancers.
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