By: Diana Barnes-Brown for Uterus1
Prior research has hinted that exercise can help prevent certain types of cancer including breast and colon cancer. This has led some to take up more active lifestyles, while other sedentary types worry that it would take a marathon to help them overcome the cumulative effect of years as a couch potato.
|Get Moving with Moderate Exercise:|
Clean the house
Walk the dog
Take a dance lesson
Take up gardening
Learn to golf
Help a friend move
Mow the lawn
Ovarian cancer facts:
According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer among women, but is the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths in women, meaning that the prognosis is often poor for those diagnosed. This year, more than 22,000 cases of cancer will be diagnosed, though the overall rate of ovarian cancer has dropped since 1991.
Now, according to new research from Canadian health experts, there is a connection between moderate exercise and decreased risk of ovarian cancer, while those who practice more vigorous forms of exercise don’t see significant benefits in cancer statistics for their efforts. The results were published in a recent issue of the International Journal of Cancer.
Researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada conducted a study reviewing the questionnaires of more than 2,500 women, of whom 442 had received a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The questionnaires were collected as part of the Canadian National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System, which collected data on physical activity at home and at work.
In the course of their review, researchers found that there was a strong connection between moderate exercise or “moderate and total recreational activity,” and reduced risk of ovarian cancer, noted Dr. Sai Yi Pan, lead author of the study and senior epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Specifically, the researchers found that woman who reported participating in activities such as walking, playing golf, gardening, and “social dancing” – which are all classified as moderate exercise by the study – were at lower risk for ovarian cancer, while those who ran, swam, biked, or skated – that is, who practiced more vigorous forms of exercise – had no lower risk for developing the disease.
Women who had active rather than sedentary jobs that required tasks including as lifting and carrying light loads, carpentry, or heavy cleaning, also enjoyed the “moderate exercise” benefits.
Pan noted that physical activity has been associated with decreased levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body, which have been linked to ovarian cancer by prior research. But the team was at a loss as to why moderate exercise was, at least in this study, more beneficial when it came to fighting cancer than more vigorous exercise.
But Pan added that, “literature suggests that regular exercise may enhance the immune system, while too much exercise may cause immune suppression and, in extreme cases, may overcome the antioxidant defense system with potential oxidative DNA damage,” in effect leaving cells defenseless and open to the types of changes that create cancer.
While further research is needed to establish enough data for doctors and health care givers to help their patients establish exercise routines and lifestyles that may help them fight ovarian cancer, the results give additional hope to those who are fighting to prevent the disease.
"Since ovarian cancer has a poor prognosis and physical activity is a modifiable lifestyle factor, our finding supports the approach of adopting a healthy lifestyle to prevent this tumor in women," said Pan.
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