A longitudinal study that gathered data from more than onemillion people over 11 years found clear relationships betweenexercise and reduced risk ofcancer.

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The study, published in the Journal of the American MedicalAssociation, is considered particularly significant not only forthe length of the study and number of participants, but for thevery direct links between exercise and certain types of cancer.

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The major finding: People who exercised regularly during theirleisure time at a fairly high level showed the following reduced risk of thesecancers:

  • Esophageal adenocarcinoma: 42 percent lower risk

  • Liver: 27 percent lower risk

  • Lung: 26 percent lower risk

  • Kidney: 23 percent lower risk

  • Gastric cardia: 22 percent lower risk

  • Endometrial: 21 percent lower risk

  • Myeloid leukemia: 20 percent lower risk

  • Myeloma: 17 percent lower risk

  • Colon: 16 percent lower risk

  • Head and neck: 15 percent lower risk

  • Rectal: 13 percent lower risk

  • Bladder: 13 percent lower risk

  • Breast: 10 percent lower risk

The average age of those in the study was 59; none had beendiagnosed with cancer at the outset of the study.

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It wasn’t all feel-good news about the link between physicalactivity and cancer. The study found those who were physicallyactive had a higher risk of having malignant melanoma — a startling27 percent— and prostate cancer (5 percent). The latter connectionpuzzled the authors, who said, “there is no known biologicrationale to explain this association.”

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And the study included 26 types of cancer, so exercise is hardlya guaranteed lower risk against all cancers.

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The study found that the level of physical activity played arole in reducing one’s risk, as did one’s body mass index. But thelatter had only a minor effect; those who exercised regularly andhad a high BMI still had much lower risk of having 10 of the 13cancers. Those with high BMI’s were more at risk for esophagealadenocarcinoma, liver cancer, gastric cardio, kidney cancer, andparticularly endometrial cancer.

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