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Physical Activity May Reduce Lung Cancer Risk in Female Smok

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Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Pennsylvania have reported that physical activity may reduce the risk of developing lung cancer in current and former smokers. The details of this study appeared in the December 2006 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.

Increased physical activity has been associated with a lower incidence of several cancers and better outcomes after the diagnosis of cancer. To date, there has been little reported on the relationship between lung cancer and physical activity. This is probably due to the fact that smoking cessation is the best way to prevent lung cancer.

Researchers involved in the Iowa Women’s Health Study group looked at the incidence of lung cancer in 36,929 women enrolled in a prospective study in 1986. These women were followed through 2002 and evaluated for cancer incidence. There were 36,410 participants in 2002 and 777 cases of lung cancer. One hundred and twenty-five cases occurred in non-smokers, 177 in former smokers and 475 in current smokers. High physical activity was defined as moderate workouts more than 4 times per week or vigorous workouts two or more times per week.

They reported that women with high physical activity were 23% less likely to develop lung cancer than women with low physical activity. The risk reduction for current smokers was 28%; for former smokers it was 37%. There was no risk reduction associated with exercise for never smokers. The highest risk group was current smokers who had low physical activity.

Comments: These are interesting data, especially for the group of former smokers who can expect some benefit from exercise. For smokers it should be pointed out that a risk reduction of 35% is relatively small compared to the 10-fold risk of lung cancer when compared to nonsmokers.

Reference: Sinner P, Folsom AR, Harnack L, et al. The association of physical activity with lung cancer incidence in the cohort of older women: The Iowa Women’s Health Study. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention 2006;15:2359-2363.

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