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Exercise benefits cancer patients, studies show

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Exercise is likely to benefit breast and prostate cancer patients, both during and after treatment, according to studies presented at a US cancer research conference.

The studies, presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) research conference in Washington, offer new insights into how aerobic and resistance exercise during treatment may prevent or delay many of the physical and mental effects that survivors experience.

In a breast cancer study, Brian Focht, director of the exercise and behavioural medicine lab at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Centre reviewed 17 trials related to exercise interventions among women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.

The study found, on average, breast cancer patients who were exercising experienced improvements in muscular strength, cardiovascular functioning and quality of life compared to the non-exercising patients.

Focht said: “Given the incredible amount of variety from study to study, women were able to safely exercise during treatment and on top of that, it produced meaningful improvements in terms of quality of life and fitness outcomes.”

His prostate cancer study was a trial involving 32 men undergoing hormone therapy, called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). Side effects of ADT include loss of muscle, increase in fat mass and osteoporosis. There is also an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Half of the men in the study were on a plant-based diet and took part in strength training and aerobic exercise. The other half received standard care. Researchers measured the patients’ body composition, mobility and strength at the start of the study, then at 8 weeks and at three months.

A timed walk test of about 400 metres showed the men who were eating healthier and exercising were walking three to four times more quickly than the group receiving standard care.

Focht said: “At the end of three months, there was an astonishing level of improvement among the intervention group. Functional ability increased dramatically and along with that, their quality of life — their satisfaction — also increased.”

He added: “What we are seeing in our studies is there are clear benefits to cancer patients implementing an exercise programme as soon as possible.”

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Exercise is likely to benefit breast and prostate cancer patients, both during and after treatment, according to studies presented at a US cancer research conference.
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