New Study Says Physical Activity Can Prevent Colon Cancer

A recent study links exercise with a decreased risk of developing abnormal colon tissue or polyps that can lead to colon cancer.

Proper eating habits and regular physical activity are two essential components for healthy living, but a new study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong suggests exercise is particularly important in preventing colon cancer.

Martin Wong, researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and senior author of the study, says regular physical activity may make people 23 percent less likely to develop precancerous growths in the colon. Furthermore, those who exercise regularly may be 27 percent less likely to develop a particular type of precancerous growths that are aggressive and are more prone to progress into colon cancer.

Although the study did not reveal how exercise reduces the risk for colon tumors, the researchers believe physical activity could improve digestion, which reduces the time acid or carcinogens are in the digestive tract. Another theory is that exercise could lower blood sugar by making the body more efficient at using insulin to convert glucose into energy.

Inactivity, Obesity and Cancer Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than three-quarters of the U.S. population is not getting enough exercise and is putting their health at risk. The obesity rate is approaching 40 percent, and inactivity and poor eating habits are two of the main contributing factors.

Exercise provides many benefits besides decreasing colon cancer risk. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Weight management
  • Bone and muscle health
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved mood
  • Enhanced brain function

Vandana Sheth, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, underscores the importance of regular exercise. “Physical activity is inversely associated with any type of colorectal neoplasia in both men and women,” said Sheth. “Increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary behavior can have a significant positive impact on our overall health, especially in terms of colorectal neoplasia.”

Get Screened to Prevent Colon Cancer

One common myth about colon cancer is that young people do not develop the disease. However, no one is too young to get colon cancer, and the incidence of young-onset colon cancer continues to rise each year.

The American Cancer Society recommends all adults at average risk for colon cancer begin colon cancer screening at the age of 45. Individuals who have certain risk factors for colon cancer should talk to their doctor about getting screened earlier. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Personal history of precancerous growths or polyps
  • Family history of hereditary colon cancer, like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome

Call Your Gastroenterologist

How long has it been since your last colon cancer screening? Call your gastroenterologist and ask when you need to schedule your next exam. A colonoscopy is the most comprehensive type of colon cancer screening because it can detect and prevent colon cancer in a single procedure. The best news is that a clear colonoscopy means you probably will not need to be screened for another ten years!

Commit to your health by giving colon cancer a double-punch. Call your GI doctor and get some exercise.