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Men who cycle, jog or swim could cut risk of nine cancers

Posted on the 22nd August 2023

Men Cycling Cancer Risk

Men who regularly jog, swim and cycle could be cutting their risk of nine cancers, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that men with good cardiorespiratory fitness are far less likely to develop cancers of the head and neck, stomach, pancreas, liver, bowel, rectum, kidney, lung and oesophagus.

Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to a person’s ability to do aerobic exercise, such as running, cycling and swimming for sustained periods, or even to climb stairs.

The new study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, saw experts from Sweden track just over a million men for an average of 33 years.

The men involved in the study were conscripted to military service in Sweden between 1968 and 2005.

At the start of their conscription, the men underwent a battery of tests assessing a number of factors including their height, weight, blood pressure, muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness.

During the follow-up period, about 84,000 developed cancer.

Researchers found that, compared with those with low cardiorespiratory fitness, men with a higher level of cardiorespiratory fitness were:

  • 19% less likely to develop head and neck cancer
  • 39% less likely to develop cancer of the oesophagus
  • 21% less likely to develop stomach cancer
  • 40% less likely to have liver cancer
  • 18% less likely to develop bowel cancer
  • 5% less likely to develop cancer of the rectum
  • 20% less likely to develop kidney cancer
  • 42% less likely to develop lung cancer
  • 12% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

The researchers did find that higher cardiorespiratory fitness was linked to a slight (7 per cent) increased risk of prostate cancer and a 31 per cent increased risk of skin cancer.

The authors suggested a higher skin cancer rate could be explained due to “higher UV exposure”.

A previous study examining the same data set suggested the slight increase in risk for prostate cancer was not linked to a higher rate of aggressive prostate cancer or prostate cancer death and could be attributable to increased screening.

Related: Short bursts of vigorous activity could reduce cancer risk

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