As aforementioned, a tumour is defined as an abnormal growth or swelling, whilst a malignant tumour (i.e. invading surrounding tissues) defines cancer. As we age, we have an increased likelihood of developing cancer as we are less able to divide and replicate cells and thus age is a major risk factor. Other major risk factors include:
- Dietary (35% of all cancers)
- Tobacco use (30% of all cancers)
- Alcohol use (3-4% of all cancers)
- Family history
- Physical inactivity and obesity
Astonishingly, 75% of cancers are preventable (American Cancer Society, 2008) and it is modifiable risk factors such as our dietary choices and levels of physical activity that must be modified in order to improve our health and prevent such debilitating conditions. Effective cancer prevention involves identifying and removing/modifying such known risk factors. Therefore, avoiding tobacco altogether, limiting alcohol intake, a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular physical activity in order to reduce adiposity and sedentary behaviour levels. Additionally, it is important to have regular medical check-ups involving screening for early detection, as an early diagnosis (i.e. cancer still localised) offers treatment options and a survival rate of almost 100%.
Physical activity itself has been well demonstrated in improving health outcomes for breast and colorectal cancer, while positive outcomes have also been evident in prostate, lung and endometrial cancers. Reasons for this include improved gut transit times, reduced obesity, improved lipid levels, improved glucose control and lower hormone levels. As an example, modifiable risk factors for prostate cancer (the leading cancer in men), include diet, as diets high in red meat and animal fat, whilst low in fruit and veg have shown an increased risk, as well as physical inactivity. In comparison, breast cancer (leading cancer in women) is caused by increased exposure to ovarian hormones including oestrogen. Hence, having children, delayed menopause or gaining weight in adulthood, especially after menopause are considered risk factors. Therefore, maintenance of a healthy diet and adequate exercise are of utmost importance throughout life.
Furthermore, exercise is important at various stages of breast cancer (and any cancer’s) treatment. Not only can it prevent the development of cancer, but it will aid in the reduction of body fat associated with the risks of cancer as well as other chronic diseases associated. Furthermore, exercise will aid in tolerating the effects of chemotherapy, thereby reducing nausea, vomiting etc. There is also growing evidence to suggest that regular exercise after a cancer diagnosis can reduce the chance of the cancer coming back. Exercise will aid in the return to healthy levels following treatment as most people will be relatively weak and often poorly nourished, while there may be an increased risk of injury from muscular wasting and osteoporosis, which exercise can also help treat via improving muscle mass and bone mineral density. Hence, not only can exercise help prevent some cancers, but it is associated with the improved clinical outcomes of: increased survivorship, reduced comorbid conditions, improved quality of life, lower fatigue and a reduction in the impact of the treatment on individuals.
At Inspire Fitness for Wellbeing our team of Exercise Physiologists work in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, while we have worked with an array of individuals following cancer treatment helping them in their return to optimal health. The benefits of exercise for conditions as such as cancer as well as general health and wellbeing are paramount. If any of this information appeals to you or anyone you may know please don’t hesitate to contact us on 9857 3007 to speak to one of our Exercise Physiologists so we can begin working towards your optimal health!