Physical activity could reduce your risk of lung and colorectal cancers

The goal of the study was to establish a link between physical fitness and the risks associated with lung and colorectal cancer.

According to new research, adults who stay in good physical shape have a lower risk of being diagnosed with colorectal or lung cancer, and a lower risk of all‐cause mortality if they do develop lung or colorectal cancer.

The new study showed that higher levels of physical fitness were associated with a lower risk of incident lung and colorectal cancer, and a lower risk of all‐cause mortality among those diagnosed with lung or colorectal cancer. The results were published online in the journal Cancer

The team, led by Catherine Handy Marshall, MD and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, observed 49,143 adults aged between 40 and 70 over the course of seven years. None of them had been diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the study.

Across a period of 18 years (1991-2009), participants underwent exercise stress testing to evaluate cardiorespiratory fitness using sustained physical activity. 

The goal of the study was to establish a link between physical fitness and the risks associated with lung and colorectal cancer.

The incidence of cancer was obtained by establishing a relationship between the cancer registry and all‐cause mortality from the National Death Index. The study is the largest of its kind to include a high percentage of women and people of color (46 percent of subjects were female, 29 percent African-Americans and 1 percent Latinx).

89 percent fewer deaths among the physically fit

Among physically fit people, the risk of developing lung or colorectal cancer dropped by 77 percent and 61 percent respectively. Among participants who did develop lung cancer, those in better shape showed a risk of death that was 44 percent lower. Patients with colorectal cancer, meanwhile, saw an 89 percent reduction in mortality if they were physically fit.

"Fitness testing is commonly done today for many people in conjunction with their doctors. Many people might already have these results and can be informed about the association of fitness with cancer risk in addition to what fitness levels mean for other conditions, like heart disease," said Marshall said in a statement, underscoring that additional studies might be needed to further explore these results and determine if the improvement of fitness can influence the risk and mortality rates of cancer.