Improved Fitness May Lower Prostate Cancer Risk

Increased cardiorespiratory fitness may lower the risk of prostate cancer but not mortality caused by the condition, a new study finds.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among American men, as about one in eight men will receive the diagnosis during their lifetime.

Unlike many other common cancers, there are relatively few preventable risk factors with strong evidence for reducing prostate cancer risk.

A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that increasing cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) may lower the risk of developing the condition.

The researchers analyzed the data of 57,652 Swedish men who completed an occupational health profile assessment, including at least two cardiorespiratory endurance tests, which involved pedaling a stationary bike and measuring the volume of oxygen they used.

During an average follow-up of 6.7 years, 592 (1%) of these men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 46 (0.08%) died with prostate cancer as the primary cause of death.

The study found that men whose CRF improved by 3% or more annually over three years were 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer compared to men whose cardiorespiratory fitness declined by 3% annually.

Cardiorespiratory fitness measures how well the body takes oxygen and delivers it to the muscles and organs during prolonged exercise.

When the researchers grouped the participants by their cardiorespiratory fitness levels at the beginning of the study, they found that the association between CRF and prostate cancer incidence was only significant in those with moderate levels.

The study did not find an association between increased CRF and reduced prostate cancer mortality. However, earlier research associated higher CRF with a 16%–30% lower risk of cancer mortality in general.

Improving cardiorespiratory fitness

Previous evidence on the link between cardiorespiratory fitness and prostate cancer is mixed. While some studies suggested a decreased risk of prostate cancer, others associated higher physical activity levels with increased prostate cancer risk.

Nevertheless, increased cardiorespiratory endurance has many other health benefits, including improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels, reduced risk of heart and blood vessel conditions, and prolonged life.

Consider the following activities to improve cardiorespiratory fitness:

  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Jogging
  • Walking
  • Jumping rope

Symptoms of prostate cancer

There will be nearly 300,000 new diagnoses and over 35,000 deaths in 2024, according to the American Cancer Society estimate.

Therefore, it is essential to recognize the symptoms of prostate cancer early and seek help. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms may include the following:

  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Urinating often, especially at night
  • Trouble emptying the bladder completely
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Painful ejaculation

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends men who are 55 to 69 years old make individual decisions about being screened for prostate cancer with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

When deciding, men should take into consideration possible risks of the screening, such as false positive test results, leading to unnecessary procedures like biopsy. Moreover, treatments may have long-term consequences like urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction.

Further studies are needed to understand the link between cardiorespiratory fitness and prostate cancer risk. Meanwhile, improving CRF can help men stay healthier and live longer.

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