Spread the Word: Exercise Protects Colon Health
October 16, 2008—Many people know that eating a healthy diet can help reduce risk of colon cancer—the third most common cancer in the US—but in a new study, only 15% of people surveyed knew that exercise can also reduce risk.
Asking the questions
The study, published in Patient Education and Counseling, used data from 1,932 participants in the 2005 Health Information National Trends Survey, a one-time phone or Internet survey about how Americans find and use cancer information.
People taking the survey were asked whether they ignore or pay attention to new recommendations for physical activity, and if they find such information confusing. They also indicated whether they had come across any information about physical activity and cancer in the last year, whether they have looked for information about cancer, and how much they exercise. They were then asked to name some common symptoms of colon cancer, and to list the things people can do to reduce risk.
Too few knew
Only 15% of the study’s participants listed physical activity as a way to reduce colon cancer risk, and more of them were between 40 and 49 years old than over 50 (the age group at highest risk). Higher education levels were associated with awareness of physical exercise’s link to reduced colon cancer risk. People who were not aware of the link were more likely to report that they were inactive, and that they found information about physical activity confusing, had not come across information about physical activity and cancer in the past year, never looked for information about cancer, and did not know of colon cancer symptoms.
Getting the word out
“Lack of awareness of physical activity’s protective effect against colon cancer is important, because greater knowledge of the issue might motivate individuals to become more active,” said lead study author Dr. Elliot Coups of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Our findings suggest that current public health strategies could be improved to promote greater awareness of the important role that physical activity plays in reducing the risk for colon cancer.”
The National Cancer Institute recommends no less than 30 minutes, and ideally 45 to 60 minutes, of moderate to vigorous exercise five times per week. Regular physical activity protects against colon cancer as well as breast, prostate, and uterine cancers, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and dementia, and can contribute to a long and healthy life.
(Patient Educ Couns 2008;72:246–51)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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