Exercise and being overweight


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One mechanism by which physical activity may positively influence the behavior of cancers is by helping to reduce the body’s fat deposits. Although seemingly obvious, the observation that exercise helps to reduce weight  among patients with cancer is supported by a large prospective study which reported a significant decrease in body fat after physical exercise intervention.

Overweight men have been shown to have been 33% more likely to die of cancer than those of a normal weight and obese women had a staggering 55% increased risk of dying from cancer. Associations of fat distribution in the body and outcomes after cancer treatments have been substantially observed for bowel cancer but also for breast and prostate cancer, with the improvement in survival being a result of decreased cancer deaths as well as reduced deaths from all causes.

For bowel and prostate the direct mechanism of being overweight is hard to explain but for breast and endometrial cancer, however, the evidence is more clear. Irrespective of their daily saturated fat intake, overweight women have higher levels of the female sex hormone oestrogen and these higher levels have been reported to lower following weight reduction programmes.

Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.

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