Regular Brisk Walks May Protect Prostate Cancer Patients

MONDAY May 23, 2011 -- Prostate cancer patients who take brisk walks on a regular basis fare better than those who don't, a new study suggests.

They not only lower their risk for disease progression, they lower their chances of dying from the disease, the researchers reported.

The finding builds on earlier research from the same group of scientists that had indicated that "vigorous physical activity" reduces the risk of dying from prostate cancer.

"Men who engaged in brisk walking, defined as three miles per hour or faster, after a diagnosis of clinically localized prostate cancer, had a reduced risk of prostate cancer progression compared to men who walked at an easy pace [less than two miles per hour]," said study author Erin L. Richman, a research associate in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

"Men who engaged in three hours per week or more of brisk walking had the greatest benefit," Richman added, "with a 57 percent lower risk of disease progression compared to men who walked less than three hours per week at an easy pace. These results were independent of clinical prognostic factors, dietary factors and lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking."

Richman's report appears in the June 1 issue of Cancer Research.

The study authors pointed out that about 2.2 million men now struggle with a prostate cancer diagnosis in the United States, and the disease is the second most common cause of cancer deaths among American men. In 2010, approximately 217,000 new cases were diagnosed.

To explore how lifestyle might impact disease progression following a diagnosis, the study team focused on 1,455 prostate cancer patients who were enrolled at one of 40 urology clinics in 2004 and 2005.

At the time the study launched, all the men had localized cancer, meaning that their disease had not yet spread beyond the prostate.

All the men completed a survey to assess their physical activity routines. Richman noted that most of the men had initially undergone "curative therapy," including radical prostactectomy and/or radiation treatment.

The researchers observed that walking accounted for about half of all the physical activity exerted by the patients, and that those who were observed to walk in a so-called "brisk" manner tended to be younger and more fit than those who walked more slowly. Brisk walkers were also less likely to smoke.

By stacking up exercise regimens against telltale signs of disease progression (such as PSA levels, the spread of the disease, and/or death), the research team found that patients who walked briskly for a minimum of three hours per week had a significantly lower rate of disease progression (57 percent lower) than those who walked at an easy pace for less than three hours per week.

In fact, the pace of walking seemed to be more important than the amount of time spent walking. Walking at an easy pace conferred no particular protective benefit against prostate cancer progression.

Richman's team cautioned that more research is needed to confirm the findings. She also suggested that other types of exercise might also prove helpful.

Dr. Lionel L. Banez, an assistant professor in the division of urologic surgery in the department of surgery at Duke University Medical Center, agreed that further research might find that other forms of exercise convey a similar protection.

"It is very reasonable to extrapolate these findings to include other forms of physical activity," he noted. "Our own previous study did show that moderate exercise, which included various forms of physical activity, was associated with lower risk for aggressive prostate cancer among veterans."

More information

There's more on prostate cancer at the American Cancer Society.

Posted: May 2011


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