There is substantial evidence that high physical activity levels are linked to lower risks of several cancers. Exercise has numerous biological effects on the body and, more specifically in terms of oncology, exercise can help mediate a variety of aspects associated with cancer survivorship.
These include reductions in inflammation and levels of hormones associated with cancer development and progression, as well as improvements in weight management and quality of life. Whilst there is substantial evidence supporting exercise and oncology, there are some forms of cancer that have limited evidence compared to others.
One form of cancer with limited but promising research is prostate cancer
One study that emphasises this is through research conducted by Friedenreich et al. (2016). This study assessed the effect of physical activity in relation to prostate cancer survival through evaluating different types, intensities and timings of physical activity.
Their research discovered that men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer that reported higher total activity levels experienced significantly lower risk of death, both in relation to prostate cancer specific and other disease related deaths.
Similar research conducted in 2018 found a 38% risk reduction in cancer-related mortality in prostate cancer patients with higher levels of physical activity (McTiernan et al. 2019). In addition, exercise has been found to significantly reduce cancer-related fatigue both during and after treatment and significantly improve mood and energy levels by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine.
Improvements in fatigue and energy levels have also been shown to correlate with improved quality of life.
Current literature also suggests that patients with prostate cancer should be encouraged to perform modalities of exercise that they most enjoy to encourage consistency in activity. Both aerobic and resistance style trainings in individual and group settings have been proven safe and effective hence it is recommended that patients commence an exercise program under the supervision of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.
Exercise Physiologists provide patients with specifically tailored recommendations and education around load management and specific exercise selection. Particularly in prostate cancer patients, if the cancer has spread to the bones, load management is of vital importance to maintain bone density and reduce risk of fractures, hence why hydrotherapy is also recommended.
The high effectiveness of exercise as reported from current literature promotes the need for patients not only of prostate cancer, but various other forms of cancer to become more physically active as it can not only improve their chances of survival, but their overall quality of life.
Friedenreich CM, Wang Q, Neilson HK, Kopciuk KA, McGregor SE, Courneya KS. Physical Activity and Survival After Prostate Cancer. European Urology. 2016;70(4):576-585. doi:10.1016/j.eururo.2015.12.032
McTiernan A, Friedenreich CM, Katzmarzyk PT, et al. Physical Activity in Cancer Prevention and Survival: A Systematic Review. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2019;51(6):1252-1261. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000001937
Exercise is Medicine Australia. Prostate Cancer and Exercise. 2020. https://www.prostate.org.au/media/790463/eim-factsheet_prostate-cancer_public2020.pdf