I know it can seem like every time you turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper, someone is offering a new clue on how we can prevent cancer. Often, the answer is something you haven’t been able to pronounce since your high school biology class. The science behind those reports is incredibly important and it will provide clues to eliminating cancer’s toll on humanity. But the result is that we often ignore what we already know.
What exactly do we know?
We know how to prevent HALF (that’s not a typo) of all cancers. Yes, really.
In a recent reports in Cancer Causes & Control and Science Translational Medicine, my colleagues and I outline the science behind this. The 8 ways to prevent cancer campaign at Siteman Cancer Center focuses on the biggest contributors to that 50% of preventable cancers. (You can watch me talk about it here.) While the ways we can prevent cancer mentioned in these articles might seem like “mere” health tips, they are real prescriptions for cancer prevention, based on more than 30 years of rigorous science from around the world.
Yes, tobacco and obesity really ARE that important for cancer prevention!
At the 2010 American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting (ACSM) in Baltimore, the new Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors were presented at a panel led by Kathryn Schmitz of the University of Pennsylvania, Melinda Irwin of Yale University, and myself. These guidelines arose out of an expert roundtable hosted by the Siteman Cancer Center in June 2009 and were also presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the Biennial Cancer Survivorship Research Conference (link) in Washington. The guidelines were published in 2010.
The key take home point of these guidelines is that exercise is safe for cancer survivors and that they should avoid inactivity. Oncologists and surgeons can and should encourage patients to get up and get moving as soon as they are able, and as much as they are able, both during and after treatment for their cancer.
There is an extensive and high quality body of evidence demonstrating not only the safety of exercise but also that activity provides numerous benefits across cancer diagnoses. Clinicians and exercise professionals should tailor exercise recommendations to individual patients, taking into account their general fitness level, specific diagnosis, and factors about their disease that might influence exercise safety. For instance, patients who have undergone bone marrow transplant and have a weakened ability to fight infection, may be advised to avoid exercise in public gyms.
So like the rest of adults, cancer patients can and should try their best to get up and get moving.