Maintaining High Physical Activity Improves Prostate Cancer Survival

April 19, 2016

Prostate cancer patients who kept up a moderate to high level of physical activity had better survival prognoses compared with their more sedentary counterparts.

Prostate cancer patients who kept up a moderate to high level of physical activity had better survival prognoses compared with their more sedentary counterparts, according to results of a study presented at the 2016 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting, held April 16–20 in New Orleans.

After a prostate cancer diagnosis, men who were the most physically active had a 34% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer compared with men who exercised the least. Men who either maintained or increased their exercise level also benefited.

Ying Wang, PhD, a senior epidemiologist in the Epidemiology Research Program at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data on 10,067 men diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer between 1992 and 2011. Men were between 50 and 93 years old. During the study, 600 men died of their disease.

Men in the study self-reported their physical activities including walking, dancing, bicycling, aerobics, jogging or running, lap swimming, and tennis.

Benefit was seen in patients with increased levels of exercise prior to their diagnosis as well. Men who exercised for 17.5 or more metabolic equivalent of task (MET) hours per week prior to their diagnosis had a 30% lower risk of prostate cancer mortality compared with men who exercised for fewer than 3.5 MET hours per week (comparable to less than an hour of moderately paced walking per week).

For men who reported walking as their only physical activity (40% of the participants), those who walked 4 or more hours per week prior to diagnosis had a 33% lower risk of prostate cancer–specific mortality. Those who walked 7 or more hours per week had a 37% lower risk. There was no statistically significant link with walking alone and prostate cancer mortality reduction after diagnosis.

“Our results support evidence that prostate cancer survivors should adhere to physical activity guidelines, and suggest that physicians should consider promoting a physically active lifestyle to their prostate cancer patients,” said Wang, in a statement.

Prior studies have suggested that patients with high levels of physical activity had a lower rate of disease progression and also reduced mortality from prostate cancer.

A limitation of the study is the self-reported physical activity and sitting time data. From the current analysis, it is not clear whether the results would differ by age at diagnosis, body mass index, or other patient factors.

“The American Cancer Society recommends adults engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week,” Wang noted. “These results indicate that following these guidelines might be associated with better prognosis.”