Run Forrest Run!

Breast and colon cancer mortality affected by exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You remember the scene in "Forrest Gump" where his friend Jenny urges him to "Run Forrest run!" to get away from a pesky group of kids. He takes off, the braces that have been shackling him fly off. And he's free.

The message of this scene fits folks who have run into and away from cancer.

People whose lives have been affected by breast or colon cancer tend to live longer if they're physically active. And while the same probably holds true for other types of cancer, there's not yet enough evidence for a clear link.

"Staying active is key to staying healthy."

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reviewed 45 articles reporting on both observational and randomized clinical trials analyzing the relationship between exercise and cancer mortality and biomarkers, which indicate the presence of disease.

Their findings were published May 8, 2012 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Rachel Ballard-Barbash, MD, of the NCI  Applied Research Program in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Science, led the review.

The studies measuring biomarkers suggest that physical activity benefits insulin levels, reduces inflammation, and may improve the immune system.

Breast cancer dancers benefited from exercise the most, followed by those who have lived through colorectal cancer. Both groups saw a decreased risk of death from any reason, including cancer.

The authors note that because of all the different types of studies reviewed, it's not possible to pinpoint specific exercise regimens that offered the most benefit. 

They do point out that exercise is safe and offers mental, emotional and physical benefits for those affected by the big C.

Edward L. Giovannucci, MD, ScD, of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, writes that physical activity also improves quality of life.

"Even though direct effects of physical activity on cancer are not definitely proven, given that physical activity is generally safe, improves quality of life for cancer patients, and has numerous other health benefits, adequate physical activity should be a standard part of cancer care," Dr. Giovannucci writes.  

The authors note that additional randomized clinical trials are needed to explore the specific types of exercise that are most helpful and look at how other factors such as obesity impact the benefits of physical activity.

No funding or conflict of interest information was provided.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 8, 2012
Last Updated:
May 8, 2012