Behind the Headlines: Can walking slow prostate cancer?

Men with prostate cancer who take brisk walks are less likely to experience disease progression, according to news reports.

A brisk walk can slow the progression of prostate cancer, say reports
A brisk walk can slow the progression of prostate cancer, say reports

Scientists led by Dr Erin Richman of the University of California, San Francisco, found that prostate cancer was less likely to recur or require a second round of treatment in men who walked briskly for at least three hours a week after diagnosis.

What did researchers examine?
The team looked at the risk of disease progression among 1,455 men with localised prostate cancer.

They studied the activity levels of participants, including the frequency and pace of walking, over two and a half years.

Previous studies have shown that regular physical activity can improve outcomes in breast and colon cancer.

During the study there were 117 cancer-related events, including 45 recurrences, 66 secondary treatments and three prostate cancer-related deaths.

Men who walked briskly were 57 per cent less likely to have cancer progression than those who walked more slowly. Those with higher walking speed also had better outcomes, irrespective of walking time. Researchers concluded that brisk walking after diagnosis may inhibit or delay prostate cancer progression among men diagnosed with clinically localised prostate cancer.

Are the results significant?
The study focused on early recurrence of prostate cancer. This occurs before the cancer becomes symptomatic, which can reduce physical activity levels and make it more difficult for patients to exercise vigorously enough to achieve the intended effect of the intervention.

The benefit of brisk walking was independent of age, type of treatment and clinical profile of the disease, meaning the findings could be applicable to many patients.

What did the researchers say?
Dr Richman said: 'The important point was the intensity of the activity - the walking had to be brisk for men to experience a benefit.

'Our results provide men who have prostate cancer with something they can do to improve their prognosis.'

Liz Woolf, of Cancer Research UK, said: 'This is an interesting and encouraging study. We know there are many benefits to exercise and that it can help people to recover more quickly after cancer treatment, but it's difficult to set specific levels of exercise as everyone's needs and abilities are different.'

She added: 'Just to be safe, it is important for people with cancer to check with their doctor before taking up any new form of exercise.'

  • Cancer Research Online 2011
Informing patients
  • The progression of prostate cancer may be slowed by brisk walking.
  • Similar results have been found in studies of other cancers.
  • Patients with cancer should still consult a doctor before starting new types of exercise.

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