May is National Cancer Research Month. It was started by the American Association of Cancer Research whose mission is focused on the prevention and cure of cancer through research, education, communication, collaboration, funding and advocacy. This is a time to commit ourselves to the fight against this life threatening disease and recognizing the importance of research needed to beat cancer.
Cancer is considered the second leading cause of death after heart disease in the US. However, due to advances in cancer research, it has saved lives and increased the survival rate in the past few years. According to the American Association for Cancer, the overall cancer death-rate declined by 27%. In 2019, it was reported that there are more than 16.9 million people who are cancer survivors. 64% of the survivors are aged 65 and older. And, it is estimated that in the coming years, around 73% of cancer survivors in the U.S will be aged 65 or older. Despite these achievements, more research needs to be conducted as this killer disease continues to be a public health issue in every corner of the globe.
Although there are a number of factors that may increase one’s risk of cancer, there is evidence that physical activity and adopting exercise as part of our lifestyle, plays a crucial part in both preventing and treating of cancer. Exercise can help in reduction of inflammation and help regulate blood sugar while improving metabolism and immune function. Research as shown that those who exercise at least 30 minutes a day are at lower risk of cancer and other chronic diseases than those who are sedentary. It also reduces the chances of cancer recurrence.
There are several benefits of exercise in cancer prevention and treatment including:
- Lowering of hormones levels
- Boosts immune health- secondary malignances increase the survival rate while it helps in flushing out bacteria through the lungs
- Helps to maintain a healthy weight- obesity is a risk factor for many patients. Exercise can help ensure your body weight to help regulated and decrease risk of cancer
- Helps to adverse side effects of treatment.
It is highly recommended that people with cancer should be physically active as possible as they are able. The recommended goal is 150 minutes per week (30 minutes a day; 5 days a week). Before starting any new exercise program, one should always consult with your doctor for more information and the dos and don’ts. Notable organizations such as Moving for Life and Strength for Life provide tailored exercise programs for cancer patients and survivors.
Remember, exercise can be as simple as taking walks, gardening or taking breaks in between long sitting hours or taking the stairs instead of the lifts.
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