Improving cardiorespiratory fitness ‘could cut risk of prostate cancer’

Men could lower their chances of developing prostate cancer more than a third by increasing the amount of jogging, cycling or swimming they do, a study has suggested.

Boosting annual cardiorespiratory fitness by 3% was linked to a 35% lower risk of developing – but not dying from – the disease, researchers said.

The Swedish study analysed data on the physical activity levels, height and body mass index (BMI) of 57,652 men, along with information on lifestyle and perceived health, and the results of at least two cardiorespiratory fitness tests.

Annual cardiorespiratory fitness measurements were expressed by the amount of oxygen the body uses while exercising as hard as possible.

The men were divided into groups depending on this increasing by 3%, remaining stable, or falling by 3% each year.

During an average follow-up period of seven years, researchers found 592 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 46 died from the disease.

Those whose fitness had improved by 3% annually were 35% less likely to develop cancer compared with those whose fitness had declined.

Researchers said the results of the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “highlight the important role of supporting the general public to increase their CRF (cardiorespiratory fitness) or aim to reach moderate fitness levels”.

Simon Grieveson, assistant director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This is an interesting piece of research that adds to previous studies showing possible links between exercise and a lower likelihood of getting prostate cancer.

“Regularly keeping fit and eating a balanced diet are good for every man’s general health and wellbeing – however, we don’t know definitively whether physical activity can lower a man’s risk of getting, or dying from, prostate cancer.

“What we do know is that men over 50, black men over 45, and men with a family history of prostate cancer are all at higher risk of getting the disease.

“Prostate cancer often has no symptoms in its earlier, more treatable stages, so it’s crucial for a man to understand his own risk. You can do this right now, using Prostate Cancer UK’s 30-second Risk Checker.

“The earlier you catch prostate cancer, the easier it is to treat it.”

Matt Lambert, health information and promotion manager at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “It is widely known that having a higher level of cardiorespiratory fitness is important for our health and longevity, but it can also be protective against certain diseases. This insightful study adds to the evidence around how risk factors such as fitness may play a role in reducing men’s risk of prostate cancer.

“This year’s Cancer Prevention Action Week, starting on 19 February, is calling on the public to do short bursts of activity throughout their day to increase their physical activity levels and start feeling the benefits, like getting fitter and reducing their risk of cancer.”