Young Adults Staying Fit Lower Risk for 9 Forms of Cancer: New Study

Young Adults Staying Fit Lower Risk
for 9 Forms of Cancer: New Study

The benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle are too many to count. The different types of cancer it may help stave off is a slightly easier number to calculate, however.

While there is no age too old to start working out consistently, there are benefits to getting started early in life. Young men who are physically fit face a lower risk of contracting at least nine different types of cancer, a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests.

Researchers found that men with high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness at a young age were less likely to develop cancers of the head and neck, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, bowel, kidney and lung. A press release provided the following summary of the findings:

The researchers therefore drew on linked Swedish registry data up to the end of 2019, covering background information, medical diagnoses, and deaths for conscripts who started their military service between 1968 and 2005.

At the start of their stint, when they were aged between 16 and 25, conscripts underwent a standard battery of assessments. These included height, weight (BMI), blood pressure, muscular strength and cardiorespiratory fitness..

Conscripts with a low level of cardiorespiratory fitness were slightly more likely to be obese, more likely to have a history of alcohol and substance misuse, and to have parents with lower educational attainment than conscripts with a higher fitness level.

In all, 365,874 conscripts had a low level of cardiorespiratory fitness; 519,652 had a moderate level; and 340,952 had a high level. The final analysis included more than 1 million men (1,078,000), 84,117 (7%) of whom subsequently developed cancer in at least one site during an average monitoring period of 33 years.

Compared with men with a low level of fitness at conscription, higher cardiorespiratory fitness was linearly associated with a lower risk of developing specific types of cancer.

It was associated with a 5% lower risk of rectal cancer (2337); a 12% lower risk of pancreatic cancer (1280); an 18% lower risk of bowel cancer (3222); a 19% lower risk of head and neck cancer (2738 men); a 20% lower risk of kidney cancer (1753); a 21% lower risk of stomach cancer (902); a 39% lower risk of food pipe cancer (689); a 40% lower risk of liver cancer (1111); and a 42% lower risk of lung cancer (1635).

But higher cardiorespiratory fitness was also associated with a 7% heightened risk of prostate cancer (14, 232 men) and a 31% heightened risk of skin cancer (23, 064). Prostate cancer screening and exposure to sunlight might account for these findings, suggest the researchers.

The authors cautioned against making any cause-and-effect assumptions about the findings, but suggested: “These results could be used in public health policymaking, further strengthening the incentive for promoting interventions aimed at increasing [cardiorespiratory fitness] in youth.”


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