A new study suggests that regular exercise and a diet that includes fish may help colon cancer patients improve their odds of avoiding a cancer recurrence. (1)
The likelihood that patients will suffer a return of colon cancer more than doubles if they eat fish less than twice a week, or if they get less than 60 minutes of moderate exercise a week, researchers reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.
According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, more than 102,000 new cases of colon cancer and about 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2013.2 Together, the diseases were responsible for over 50,000 deaths. There is, however, good news about colorectal cancer in the United States: death rates associated with the disease have dropped during the past 15 years, and advances continue to be made in screening, prevention, and treatment. Unfortunately many individuals will fail initial therapy and develop a recurrence. (2)
The multinational study involved 1,515 colon cancer patients from the United States, Poland, Vietnam and Western Europe, including 188 people who suffered a recurrence of their cancer following initial treatment. Researchers carefully surveyed the patients, asking about their diet, exercise, and lifestyle and whether they smoked or consumed alcohol.
The investigators found that individuals who eat fish less than twice a week or exercise for less than an hour each week are about 2.5 times more likely to have a recurrence of their colon cancer. The doctors were unable to identify any other dietary factors that affect the risk of colon cancer recurrence, including intake of red meat, alcohol consumption, or smoking.
Researchers have hypothesized that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish might somehow reduce colon cancer risk. The findings in the current study regarding fish and exercise are consistent with earlier studies that investigated what might increase someone’s risk of developing colon cancer in the first place.
The potential benefits of exercise are increasingly appreciated; exercise reduces inflammation in the body and helps thwart obesity, which are two other risk factors for colon cancer. Exercise also reduces insulin levels in the body, and insulin is a growth factor for both normal cells and malignant cells.
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