9.6 million people die from cancer every year, making it the second leading cause of death worldwide. In Australia, 1 in 3 men, and 1 in 4 women, will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 75, with 138,321 people diagnosed in 2018.
It's not all bad news though, and on World Cancer Day, Exercise Right is reminding Australians that at least one third of common cancers are preventable.
"Research suggests that exercise can help to reduce the risk of up to 13 different types of cancer, including colon, breast and endometrial cancers. This is through the benefits of physical activity managing weight and reducing obesity, which are major risk factors for many types of cancers," says Carly Ryan, Accredited Exercise Physiologist.
Exercise also has a number of biological effects on the body, some of which have been proposed to explain associations with specific cancers, including:
Lowering the levels of hormones, such as insulin, estrogen, and of certain growth factors that have been associated with cancer development and progression
Improving immune system function
Reducing the amount of time it takes for food to travel through the digestive system, which decreases gastrointestinal tract exposure to possible carcinogens
Exercise doesn't just help with prevention, as physical activity after a cancer diagnosis may result in significant protection of mortality among cancer survivors. Exercise interventions are increasingly being recommended as a standard part of patient care for those undergoing cancer treatment.
"Exercise can reduce cancer-related fatigue, reduce severity of symptoms and minimalise deconditioning during treatment. It can also help to manage the side effects of treatments such as Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT), which is commonly used for those recovering from prostate cancer."
Exercise also helps to reduce the rates of death for those who have been diagnosed with cancer. Research shows that meeting the physical activity recommendations from the World Health Organisation reduces cancer mortality in both the general population and cancer survivors.
For those who are living with a cancer diagnosis, getting the right advice about exercise is critical. "There are numerous factors that need to be considered when prescribing exercise for those going through treatment or recovering from cancer. The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) recommends cancer patients are referred to Accredited Exercise Physiologists, the exercise prescription and delivery specialists."
To find out more about exercising for cancer prevention and management, visit the Exercise Right website.
If you'd like to find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, chat to your GP or find one here.