Doing sports in adolescence can prevent several types of cancer

It has been shown that the regular practice of physical exercise helps to maintain health and prevent diseases, and now a new investigation has verified the importance of adopting this very healthy habit at an early age to obtain all its benefits, since it shows that the men with a higher aerobic capacity at age 18 have a lower risk of developing several types of cancer in the futureespecially cancers that affect the gastrointestinal tract.

The study has been carried out by researchers from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) who have analyzed the link between aerobic capacity at the time of compulsory military service and the risk of being diagnosed with 18 different types of cancer later. The analyzes are based on data from 1,078,000 men who were conscripted into the military in Sweden between 1968 and 2005, with a average age 18 years.

The results published in British Journal of Sports Medicine show that being in good physical shape at the time of recruitment was associated with a lower risk of developing cancer of the head and neck, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon, rectum, kidney, and lung. All results were independent of factors such as being overweight or obese, the year they were recruited, and the educational level of their parents.

Good physical condition protects against gastrointestinal cancer

The researchers found that the associations between good physical fitness and lower cancer risk were strongest for cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, including cancer of the esophagus and liver, with the risk being approximately 40% lower for those with good fitness levels at the time of recruitment. The corresponding risk of stomach and colon cancer was approximately 20% lower.

“Good physical condition appears to reduce the risk of many types of cancer, as well as leaving people better prepared for good treatment outcomes if they do develop cancer.”

Although smoking data were only known for more than 20,000 recruits, it is likely that those with good aerobic fitness were more frequently non-smokers, and this is thought to explain part of the association between poorer fitness and esophageal cancer and of liver, and most of the association between a worse physical condition and lung cancer.

Interestingly, a good physical condition at a young age was linked with a higher chance of being diagnosed with two types of cancer: skin cancer and prostate cancer. One likely explanation for this finding is that fit men are also more likely to be screened for prostate cancer and to keep an eye on their skin lesions, which facilitates earlier diagnoses.

“Good physical condition seems to be able to reduce the risk of many types of cancer, as well as leaving people better prepared to obtain good treatment results if they develop cancer,” said Aron Onerup, a postdoc at the University of Gothenburg and at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, USA, and first author of the study. “The results reinforce the arguments in favor of working for establish healthy habits that lead to good levels of physical fitness in the early stages of life”.

“Life habits are established early and often remain stable throughout life,” adds Mats Börjesson, professor of sport physiology at the University of Gothenburg, consultant at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and lead author of the study, who concludes that The study should not be interpreted as suggesting that “it is enough to exercise when you are young”, but rather to believe that “it is also of great importance in the future”.


Leave a Reply