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Exercise reduces death rate in prostate cancer patients

As little as 15 minutes of exercise a day can reduce overall mortality rates in patients with prostate cancer, according to findings presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, held here, Dec. 6-9, 2009.

"We saw benefits at very attainable levels of activity," said Stacey A. Kenfield, Sc.D., epidemiology research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "The results suggest that men with prostate cancer should do some physical activity for their overall health."

Researchers assessed physical activity levels for 2,686 patients enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, both before and after diagnosis (men with metastases at diagnosis were excluded).

Men who engaged in three or more hours of Metabolic Equivalent Tasks (MET) a week — equivalent to jogging, biking, swimming or playing tennis for about a half-hour per week — had a 35 percent lower risk of overall mortality.

Specific to walking, the researchers found that men who walked four or more hours a week had a 23 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to men who walked less than 20 minutes per week. Men who walked 90 or more minutes at a normal to brisk pace had a 51 percent lower risk of death from any cause than men who walked less than 90 minutes at an easy walking pace.

Walking didn't show any effect on prostate cancer specific mortality, but more strenuous exercising did. Men who engaged in five or more hours of vigorous physical activity a week were at a decreased risk of dying from their prostate cancer.

"This is the first large population study to examine exercise in relation to mortality in prostate cancer survivors," said Kenfield. Previous studies focused on how exercise affects risk of developing prostate cancer. Kenfield said that researchers aren't sure of the exact molecular effects exercise has on prostate cancer, but exercise is known to influence a number of hormones hypothesized to stimulate prostate cancer, boost immune function and reduce inflammation.

"How these factors may work together to affect prostate cancer biologically is still being studied," she said. "For now, our data indicate that for prostate cancer survivors, a moderate amount of regular exercise may improve overall survival, while five or more hours per week of vigorous exercise may decrease the death rate due to prostate cancer specifically."

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 30,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and nearly 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowship and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 16,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

Tara Yates | EurekAlert!
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