Exercise can help fight colon cancer even if the patient is overweight

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By Cara Murez

Health Day Reporter

THURSDAY, November 17, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Regular, moderate physical activity may help extend the life of people with colon cancer, according to a new study.

The results showed that exercise is helpful even for obese cancer patients because it reduces inflammation and improves the bacterial communities of the gut microbiome.

“Inflammation is a key process that drives colon cancer. We know a high BMI [body mass index] causes inflammation throughout the body,” said Cornelia Ulrich, study co-author. She is executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.

“Obesity is on the verge of becoming the #1 cause of cancer in the United States, surpassing smoking. More than 13 types of cancer are linked to obesity,” Ulrich said in a press release from the institute. “It’s important that we understand that moderate exercise can help colorectal cancer patients reduce inflammation, improve their gut health, and live longer—even if they’re overweight or obese.”

Researchers found these benefits for patients regardless of their BMI.

The study was conducted as part of the ColoCare study in patients with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer. Researchers in Germany and Utah examined stool samples from 179 patients with stage 1-4 colon cancer admitted between October 2010 and March 2018.

They found that higher levels of physical activity were associated with greater diversity in the gut microbiome, an indicator of a healthy gut.

The results were published in the American Journal of Cancer Research.

“An active patient has a more diverse microbiome and fewer colon cancer-promoting bacteria and a greater amount of bacteria that protect against colon cancer,” said co-author Caroline Himbert, a research associate in Ulrich’s group.

“Our study suggests that nobody needs to be an athlete to reap the benefits,” she said in the press release. “It can be simple activities. It’s very beneficial to just stay active.”

The researchers called the findings an important step in understanding the impact of a healthy gut on colon cancer outcomes.

Study fails to prove exercise will keep colon cancer at bay. However, the researchers said future studies should assess different effect sizes by exercise type, intensity and body composition.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week for adults.

Aside from skin cancer, colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 106,000 new cases of colon cancer and nearly 45,000 cases of rectal cancer are diagnosed each year.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on colon cancer.

SOURCE: Huntsman Cancer Institute, press release, November 14, 2022

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