Sperling Prostate Center

Want to Prevent Cancer? Here’s How.

Don’t read this blog if any of these statements describes you:

  • • You don’t care if you ever get cancer
  • • You don’t care about great health when you age
  • • You don’t believe your lifestyle affects how long you live.

In other words, if you’re a fatalist, this blog is not for you.

A fatalist is someone who believes life is predetermined from the moment of conception. A fatalist is a person who feels powerless to influence outcomes through choices, because destiny is destiny. And, if you look at the words closely, it’s root is the word “fatal”—which literally means causing death!

I once met a man who did not believe in exercise. He said, “I figure I have been given just so many heartbeats between birth and death. If I work out, and speed up my heart rate, I’m just going to die that much sooner.” I tried to point out that the heart is a muscle, that making muscles work actually strengthens them, and that research shows aerobic workouts help people live longer and in better health. He shrugged it off and walked away.

Exercise for cancer prevention

We all know there are no guarantees in life, when there’s a massive amount of research-based data pointing to a probable outcome, it’s hard to ignore it. In technical terms, this is called a preponderance of evidence. The more consistent statistics add up, the harder it is to deny them. There’s a saying: “If 50 people tell you you’re drunk, fall over.” If study after study shows that people who exercise regularly live longer with higher quality of life—and that’s exactly what studies consistently show—get moving!

Keeping active is an essential component of wellness. The amount of research connecting exercise with cancer prevention, including prostate cancer (PCa), is persuasive. However, there does not seem to be agreement on which kind of exercise and how much of it offers protection against cancer.

There are three types of exercise that show up in scientific studies: aerobic workouts for cardio and metabolic fitness, strength training for building muscle, and simply staying active. Each of them has longevity and quality of life benefits, and there is some overlap:

  • Aerobic exercise means activities that raise your heart rate and sustain it for a certain period of time. This not only strengthens your heart muscle, it increases your energy and stamina, produces biochemicals that boost your mood, burns calories for maintaining healthy weight, contributes to your immune system, and increases how efficiently you burn fuel. You’re less likely to develop chronic diseases like diabetes or inflammatory conditions.
  • Strength training refers to repetitive use of weights or resistance to build muscle. There are five places on the planet where people routinely live to age 100 while being in good physical and mental health. They are called blue zones, and their citizens have strengthening work built into their daily activities. A blue zone blogger points how we in the U.S. have become sedentary: “… fewer than 25 percent of Americans over the age of 45 work with weights or do strength training on a regular basis. A whole lot fewer, I’m guessing. Blame it on our sedentary lifestyles. The heaviest thing most of us lift is our laptop. Nothing we do requires us to raise our arms over our heads.” A University of Sydney study found that strength-based exercise like push-ups or sit ups—or working with weights—resulted in 23% reduced risk of premature death from any cause, and 31% reduced risk in cancer-related death.[i]
  • Taking time every day for any type of physical activity (walking, jogging, playing tennis or pickleball, etc.) not only affords many of the benefits of aerobics and strength training), it reduces stress while adding enjoyable breaks. Even if you can’t schedule routine trips to the gym, simple choices like using stairs instead of an elevator, walking to a mailbox to mail a letter instead of adding it to your car errands, etc. contribute to living longer with robust health.

If you’re not already committed to an exercise regimen, The National Foundation for Cancer Research offers this advice:

Cardio exercise can easily be introduced to one’s daily life by cycling or jogging – it’s easy to get started and typically doesn’t require the same amount of time or effort associated with weight training. People looking to make health conscious decisions in their daily lives can incorporate cardio by adding brisk walks or even starting their day with jumping jacks. Luckily, strength training can be just as convenient as cardio workouts. While free weights and workout machines are great tools, strength training can be completed without any equipment. For example, planks, push-ups, squats, and crunches can be done from the comfort of one’s living room.

If you made it to the end of this blog, it’s because you care enough to reduce your cancer risk, you want to live to a ripe old age while maintaining vigor of mind, body and spirit, and you recognize that the choices you make every day have a tremendous bearing on achieving these outcomes. Congratulations on being a true citizen on Planet Health!

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Stamatakis E, Lee IM, Bennie J, Freeston J et al. Does Strength-Promoting Exercise Confer Unique Health Benefits? A Pooled Analysis of Data on 11 Population Cohorts With All-Cause, Cancer, and Cardiovascular Mortality Endpoints. Am J Epidemiol. 2018 May 1;187(5):1102-1112.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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