Exercise Offers Protection From Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is the fourth most prevalent cancer worldwide, and ranks second for cancer-related deaths. Men are somewhat more likely to develop stomach cancer (also called “gastric cancer”) than women, and prognosis is often bad.

No wonder researchers have been investigating if exercise might have an effect on stomach-cancer risk. Past studies have proven inconclusive. But a new meta-analysis, the first of its kind, presents a hopeful picture.

The study, a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, reports an overall 19% lower risk of stomach cancer in the physically active. It looked at other reports evaluating more than 1.5 million people, including nearly 8000 with stomach cancer. “We found a modest protective association between physical activity and gastric cancer risk, “ the researchers concluded. In addition, the risk “did not differ materially at higher physical activity levels.”

The study authors believe that exercise fights cancer “by preventing chronic inflammation through upregulation of antioxidant defense systems, and by reducing the levels of possibly carcinogenic hormones.”

Other research has implicated high salt intake, eating processed meats, and high alcohol intake with the development of stomach cancer, while fruits, vegetables and fibre are protective.

Stomach cancer is not the only cancer that may be limited by exercise. A chapter from the 2013 book Exercise, Energy Balance, and Cancer states that the “evidence for an association with physical activity is convincing for colon and breast cancers, probable for endometrial cancer, possible for prostate, gastric and ovarian cancers and insufficient for all other cancer sites.”

The book authors conclude: “Overall, the evidence is sufficiently established to recommend physical activity as a means for the primary prevention of cancer.”

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