Men up to 40% less likely to get cancers if they were fit growing up
The dangers of being lazy in your early 20s: Men who were fit as younger adults are up to 40% less likely to get cancer, study finds
- Researchers from Sweden analysed data from more than one million men
- High fitness levels when young saw the risk of lung cancer lowered by 42%
Men who were fit when they were younger are up to 40 per cent less likely to develop nine types of cancer, research suggests.
A large study spanning over 30 years found those with good cardiorespiratory fitness at a young age were less likely to develop the likes of bowel, kidney, liver, pancreatic and lung cancer as they got older.
Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to a person’s ability to do aerobic exercise such as running, cycling and swimming for sustained periods, or even to climb stairs.
Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden analysed data on more than one million men who underwent a range of tests when conscripted to the military between the ages of 16 and 25.
This included a cycling test, the results of which researchers used to classify participants into ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ cardiorespiratory fitness categories.
A large study spanning over 30 years found those with good cardiorespiratory fitness at a young age were less likely to develop the likes of bowel, kidney, liver, pancreatic and lung cancer as they got older. Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to a person’s ability to do aerobic exercise such as running, cycling and swimming for sustained periods, or even to climb stairs
They were all followed until they were in their fifties, during which time 7 per cent developed cancer.
Compared to men who had low levels of fitness during their younger years, higher cardiorespiratory fitness was linked with a lower risk of developing specific types of cancer.
The biggest reduction was seen in lung cancer – with high fitness levels leading to a 42 per cent lowered risk – closely followed by liver cancer and cancer of the food pipe.
It was also linked to a 21 per cent lower risk of stomach cancer, 20 per cent lower risk of kidney cancer, 19 per cent lower risk of head and neck cancer, 18 per cent lower risk of bowel cancer, 12 per cent lower risk of pancreatic cancer and a 5 per cent lower risk of rectal cancer.
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However, higher fitness levels were also linked to a 7 per cent higher risk of prostate cancer and a 31 per cent higher risk of skin cancer.
This could be explained by prostate cancer screening rates and exposure to sunlight, the researchers said.
‘This study shows that higher fitness in healthy young men is associated with a lower hazard of developing nine out of 18 investigated site-specific cancers,’ they added.
‘These results could be used in public health policymaking, further strengthening the incentive for promoting interventions aimed at increasing cardiorespiratory fitness in youth.’
The team cautioned that they did not have data on diet, alcohol intake, smoking or changes to fitness over the course of the study.
The findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
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