A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that maintaining good cardiovascular fitness can decrease the risk of developing nine different forms of cancer. The research, conducted by Dr. Aron Onerup and his team at the University of Gothenburg, analyzed health and fitness data from over one million male military conscripts in Sweden.
The study found that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with a lower risk of being diagnosed with cancers such as head and neck, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon, rectum, esophagus, kidney, and lung. In fact, the risk of these cancers was reduced by up to 40% in individuals with higher fitness levels compared to those with lower fitness levels.
Interestingly, the study also revealed a slightly increased risk of skin and prostate cancer in more fit individuals. While the reasons for this are not yet clear, Dr. Onerup speculates that individuals who are more physically fit may spend more time in the sun, potentially increasing their risk of skin cancer.
The study used a VO2 max test, which measures the body's ability to use oxygen during peak performance, as an indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness. This method is seen as more reliable than self-reported physical activity assessments used in previous studies. Higher fitness levels were also associated with lower levels of obesity, higher levels of parental education, lower levels of smoking and substance abuse, and higher cognitive ability.
The findings of this study support previous research showing a link between physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cancer risk. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week to reduce their risk of cancer.
Overall, this study highlights the importance of maintaining good cardiovascular health in reducing the risk of certain cancers. While further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between fitness and cancer risk, the evidence suggests that even small improvements in fitness can have a positive impact on health outcomes.