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Exercise reduces bowel cancer risk

Published : Tuesday March 29, 2016 | Posted in : News

Active people are one third less likely to develop bowel cancer, a new study shows.

The report draws on 20 studies looking at the link between exercise and the development of large polyps – abnormal growths of tissue that can lead to bowel cancer. It was written by scientists from Washington University School of medicine in the US, and their findings were reported in the British Journal of Cancer.

Bowel cancer and obesity

More than 41,100 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK, which equates to 110 cases being diagnosed each day. Globally, more than 1.36 million new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed yearly.

As well as protecting against bowel cancer, regular exercise is also a defence against obesity. The combination exercise and a healthy diet provides the optimum protection against both conditions. Deborah Alsina, who is Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: "Evidence also shows that the combination of taking more exercise and having a healthy diet may protect against bowel cancer, as well as weight gain and obesity, so we encourage people to do both."

Obesity is one of the most common health problems in the developed world, affecting one in four in the UK, and one in three adults in America, according to latest figures. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) figures are increasing in the UK, with 74% of men and 64% of women likely to be overweight or obese by the year 2030, as opposed to 70% and 59% respectively in 2010. This demonstrates just how important it is to take action now to successfully avoid the risk of bowel cancer, as well as other health concerns, such as obesity. Regular exercise is the perfect tool to help you avoid these.

How exercise can help

Medical experts recommend doing at least half an hour's moderate exercise each day, such as brisk walking, or anything that leaves you breathless. The NHS recommends that adults should partake in at least two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. This can include activities such as fast-paced walking and cycling. Getting enough physical activity can help you lose weight, and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways of protecting yourself against cancer. An analysis of 31 separate studies concluded that the risk of developing bowel cancer could be reduced by as much as 25% when exercising regularly.

Exercise reduces insulin levels, which reduces the risk of polyps developing. It also enhances the immune system and, because people who exercise spend more time outside, can boost vitamin D levels. Evidence found in multiple clinical studies has also shown that exercise can prevent the development of other forms of cancer, including breast and womb cancer. Exercising regularly can also reduce inflammatory and immune factors, all of which can potentially increase the risk of bowel cancer.

So, by committing some of your time to exercise each and every week you can gain a number of health benefits, including the ability to avoid the risk of numerous health issues, especially bowel cancer.


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