How can Physical Activity help You Prevent or Assist in the Treatment of Prostate Cancer?

physical activity can assist in preventing and treating prostate cancer

The month of June is considered Men’s Health Month. It was established to increase awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment among men.  As mentioned in our blog last year, ‘Functional Training in Men’s Health’, physical activity (PA) can assist in the prevention of cancer, as well as assist in the recovery process thereof.  With prostate cancer (PCa) being no different.

Prostate Cancer: Who is at Risk?

According to the University of Pretoria, approximately 61.8 per 100 000 men in southern Africa will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime.  It is considered the second most common cancer in men. With approximately 1.3 million men diagnosed with prostate cancer worldwide in 2018.  Research also shows that African American men are 1.7 times more likely to develop prostate cancer compared to European Americans and are 2.5 times more likely of dying from this.  This is due to elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. With other risk factors including increasing age and family history of prostate cancer.  Though this type of cancer is by no means a death sentence. As it has a 98% recovery rate if detected early. REMEMBER: PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE.

Positive effects of Physical Activity

Recent research suggests that physical activity could have a positive effect on prostate cancer incidence, progression, oncological and functional surgical outcomes, and medical-related morbidity.  But that only about 11% of older men meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity.

Physical activity can directly or indirectly affect all stages of prostate cancer carcinogenesis. Referring to the formation of cancer, whereby normal cells are transformed into cancer cells, on a molecular level. This means that through physical activity, certain hormone production (such as Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is positively associated with prostate cancer risk) is reduced. Or it modulates the circulating levels of certain proteins which inhibits the cancer cells from killing off the healthy cells. Furthermore, research shows that regular and moderate physical activity has the potential to modulate redox signaling. Redox signaling is a component of cell signaling pathways that are involved in the regulation of cell growth, metabolism, hormone signaling, immune regulation and other physiological functions. As well as enhance antioxidant defense, and therefore decreasing prostate cancer initiation and progression. And lastly it reduces chronic inflammation, which we all know is something that cancer thrives on.

Reducing Risk

Research suggests that overall physical activity can have a significant risk reduction of up to 19%. And that recreational physical activity can even provide a 5% risk reduction.  Another study found a reduction of 7 – 12 % in prostate cancer rates in men over the age of 60 with long-term occupational PA.  Furthermore, studies found that there was also an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer associated with individuals with a higher body mass index. Your body mass index can be calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters.  And with regards to starting physical activity after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, well research shows that survivorship might increase between 50 and 60 % when taking up physical activity after being diagnosed.

Rehabilitation

The Vario Health Institute at the Edith Cowan University in Australia suggests that physical activity could limit or even reverse some of the side effects of androgen deprivation therapy. This would result in increased muscle mass, functional performance and cardiovascular fitness, all without increasing testosterone levels.  This is important, as many hormone therapies increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and sarcopenia (loss of bone mass due to aging).  Physical activity also seems to improve the therapeutic effects of traditional radiation and pharmaceutical treatment by increasing the tolerance, reducing side effect and lowering risks of chronic diseases.

Developing an Exercise Program

So how much physical activity is considered enough?  Studies suggest that men with prostate cancer should participate in moderate-to-high intensity aerobic, resistance and impact exercises. Ideally prescribed and supervised by a qualified therapist.  But that there is no difference in doing a lower volume compared to a higher volume when looking at the benefits. While a lower dosage may assist in adherence to exercise. 

The recommended amount of aerobic exercise for patients with cancer are 3 – 5 days per week of 20 – 60 continuous minutes at a moderate intensity level (60 – 90 % of maximal HR). As well as 2 – 4 sessions a week (non-consecutive days are recommended) of resistance training.  Resistance training should include 1 – 4 sets per muscle group and sets should consist of 6 – 12 repetitions each.

There are hundreds of studies that have been performed to establish the relationship between physical activity and the effects it has on the prevention of prostate cancer. As well as the effects it has on a cancer patient during treatment and survivorship.  It was heartening to see that in all the articles we found, it was proven that physical activity did in fact have a positive impact on reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer. And improve the quality of life of cancer patients, while also improving the rate of overcoming and surviving prostate cancer. 

The great thing about this: it is something that each and every person can incorporate into their daily lives.  You don’t need to have a gym membership or even major equipment and can use things in your everyday life to achieve these results.  It is a decision each person can make for themselves and make a change to their lives. 

And if you need help getting started, we are just a click away.

References

Capese, M., Creta, M., Calogero, A., La Rocca, R., Napolitano, L., Barone, B., Sica, A., Fusco, F., Santagelo, M., Dodaro, C., Sagnelli, C., Carlomagno, N., Crocetta, F., Califano, G., Mangiapa, F. and Longo, N., 2020. Does physical activity Regulate Prostate Carcinogenesis and Prostate Cancer Outcomes? A Narrative Reveiw. [ebook] International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, pp.2-4. Available at: <https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/4/1441> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

Cormie, P. and Zopf, E., 2020. Exercise medicine for the management of androgen deprivation therapy-related side effects in prostate cancer. [online] Urologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations. Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1078143918303909> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

De Bruin, L., 2018. Black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer than white men in South Africa. [online] University of Pretoria. Available at: <https://www.up.ac.za/news/post_2709846-black-men-have-a-higher-risk-of-prostate-cancer-than-white-men-in-south-africa> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

Delongchamps, N., Singh, A. and Haas, G., 2006. The Role of Prevalence in the Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer. [ebook] PubMed. Available at: <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/107327480601300302> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

n.d. Guidelines for Implementing Exercise Programs for Cancer Patients. [online] Available at: <https://www.racgp.org.au> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

Lopez, P., Taaffe, D., Newton, R. and Galvao, D., 2020. Resistance Exercise Dosage in Men with Prostate Cancer: Systemic Review, Meta-analysis, and Meta-Regression. [ebook] Western Australia: Wolters Kluwer Health. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7886340/pdf/mss-53-459.pdf> [Accessed 30 May 2021].

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