How You Can Use Physical Activity to Drop Your Prostate Cancer Risk
A new study combines analyses of genetics and lifestyle to show how exercise can reduce your risk of getting the disease.
“A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.”
The fictional bear Winnie-the-Pooh often has excellent insights, no? Today we turn to how physical activity can reduce your risk of prostate cancer. Of course, this only applies to we prostate-containing men.
We’ll begin with some basics of the disease before turning to a new and exciting study from the United Kingdom, illustrating the value of physical activity for risk reduction.
The prostate is walnut-shaped and resides in a man’s pelvis. It makes the seminal fluid that provides support and transportation for sperm. Prostate cancer starts in this gland and is one of the most common forms of cancer among men.
Prostate cancer often grows slowly, remaining confined, and not posing a threat to health or life. However, some prostate cancers act more aggressively and can metastasize, or spread to distant sites of the body.
Why do men get prostate cancer?
We do not know. Prostate cancer begins when cells within the gland become abnormal. Such changes (mutations) in the cell DNA can promote cell growth and division.
These abnormal cells begin to divide uncontrollably. Essentially, they become immortal. These cancer cells then sometimes break away to spread to distant parts of the body in a process known as metastasis. For prostate cancer, the bones are a common target.
We do not fully understand what causes prostate cancer for an individual man. Still, we know some risk factors that can increase a man’s risk of the disease.
Selected risk factors: These increase your chances of getting prostate cancer
- Age. Risk rises with age, especially after age 50.
- Place. Risk is higher in North America and northern Europe.
- Race. African-Americans are at higher risk.
- Family. Familial prostate cancer represents about 20 percent of all prostate cancers. Uncommonly, there can be a strong predisposition due to mutations in genes such as the BReast CAncer gene (BRCA).
- Weight. Obesity can raise your risk.
- Chemicals. Agent Orange exposure, for example, in the Vietnam War.
Physical activity reduces prostate cancer risk.
A recent study represents the most extensive investigation into the roles of genes, physical activity, and other variables on getting prostate cancer. Researchers examined over 50 potential risk factors, using global data. Here is what they discovered:
Physical activity, iron levels, body mass index, monounsaturated fat, and height appeared related to prostate cancer risk. The results were most impressive for physical activity.
Historically, we have relied mainly on observational studies to determine risk factors for cancer. But observational studies are remarkably limited. The newer approach pioneered by researchers from the University of Bristol combined genetic studies with lifestyle assessments to better understand risk factors for cancer. This particular study confirms previous research that showed being physically active can reduce our risk of cancer.
“After all, one can’t complain. I have my friends.”
You know what you need to do. Move, maintain a healthy weight, and ask your health care provider about your risk. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.