Physical Activity May Reduce Risk of Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer risks may be reduced with physical activity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Staying physically active isn’t just about weight control anymore. No, being physically fit is increasingly seen as a way to stave off serious illness – including some types of cancer.

Researchers have found that physical activity may reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.

Exercise was seen to be particularly potent against a type of esophageal cancer that can develop from a serious digestive disorder called Barrett’s esophagus.

"Make physical activity a part of your lifestyle."

Siddharth Singh, MD, a Mayo Clinic researcher, and colleagues reviewed and analyzed a number of studies that looked at various types of physical activity and esophageal cancer risks.

There are two types of esophageal cancer, a particularly nasty form of the disease - esophageal squamous cell cancer (ESCC), which is on the decline around the world, and esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), which has been on a sharp incline.

Researchers believe the increase in cancers of the esophagus – the tube that connects the throat to the stomach – may be explained in part by the obesity epidemic.

EAC can result from Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the tissue lining of the esophagus is replaced by tissue that’s similar to intestinal lining. Barrett’s esophagus is a major risk factor for esophageal cancer.

For this study called a meta-analysis, the researchers analyzed the findings from eight studies that looked at physical activity and esophageal cancer risks.

The meta-analysis uncovered the following:

  • Five studies involving 1217 cases found a 19 percent lower risk of esophageal cancer among the most physically active individuals compared to the least active people.
  • Physical activity was associated with a 32 percent reduced risk of EAC in four studies involving 506 cases.
  • ESCC risk was not affected by physical activity, according to two studies involving 674 cases.
  • Compared to occupational physical activity, recreational activity was associated with a 17 percent decreased risk of esophageal cancer.

According to Dr. Singh, more research is needed because it is too early to conclude that exercise directly decreases esophageal cancer risk.

“I'm a firm believer that exercises helps the human body adapt to being stronger and more able to react to anything that attacks it,” James Crowell, owner and head trainer of Integrated Fitness in Pittsburgh, told dailyRx News.

“I'm also a firm believer that without the proper nutrition in your body that you will become extremely susceptible to stomach problems and then internal inflammation problems. The science behind inflammation problems leading to disease only gets stronger by the day. When you couple exercise and nutrition with a lifestyle that isn't excessively stressful I believe that your chances of developing major disease will drop off," Crowell said.

Findings from this study were presented at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 78th Annual Scientific Meeting.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
October 13, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013