Exercise: a new medicine for cancer survivors

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trainers_exercise_oncology news australiaCOSA 2016: New research presented at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) and Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trial Group (ANZBCTG) joint Meeting today shows that high intensity exercise helps cancer survivors overcome fatigue.

The new finding contradicts previous advice that primarily focused on rest or low-to-moderate intensity physical activity.

The Meeting also featured expert presentations that show physical activity could help cancer survivors reduce their risk of cancer recurrence, minimise joint pain and improve cognitive function, (please visit our dedicated COSA ASM archive page for more coverage).

Kirsten Adlard, from The University of Queensland presented the findings of her research that tested the impact of high intensity interval training (HIIT) compared to moderate intensity continuous training in 52 bowel cancer survivors.

“Around 65% of people with cancer survive at least five years after their initial diagnosis. However, 70–100 percent  of cancer survivors will experience fatigue that can persist up to ten years beyond treatment,” said Ms Adlard.

Those undertaking HIIT in the study completed four sets of four-minute high intensity exercise bouts, interspersed by three minutes of low intensity exercise.

“We were encouraged to find that bowel cancer survivors were capable of high intensity exercise, with no serious adverse effects.”

patient tired anaemic oncology news australia 800x500“Those who performed HIIT three times a week for eight weeks experienced a significant decrease in their fatigue levels, while those performing moderate intensity exercise experienced consistently high levels of fatigue,” said Ms Adlard.

Professor Janette Vardy from the University of Sydney also presented today, sharing initial findings from a study of 273 colon cancer survivors from Australia and Canada. Her research aims to test how cancer survivors can be encouraged to exercise in order to reduce their cancer risk.

“We found that by offering individualised exercise programs to cancer survivors we can increase their average amount of exercise from 5 to 15 hours a week. This is the level of physical fitness that has previously been found to be associated with a reduced risk of cancer recurrence.

“This initial finding is a crucial first step – it shows that we can actively change cancer survivors’ behaviours through simple exercise programs. The next step is to monitor the patients into the future to see whether their rates of cancer recurrence are actually lower,” said Professor Vardy.

Professor Mei Krishnasamy, COSA President, said the growing body of evidence around the benefits of exercise is increasingly influencing the recommendations given to cancer survivors.

Exercise prescriptions_oncology news australia“In recent years research has widened our understanding the benefits of exercise for those undergoing cancer treatment in terms of providing quality of life. Now we are starting to see more research that shows that exercise can also help cancer survivors reduce their ongoing symptoms and improve their odds of longer-term survival.

“Exercise is an important new cancer medicine – and research suggests it should be prescribed to cancer survivors just like any other medicine,” Professor Krishnasamy.


Visit the COSA ASM website for more information on speakers, abstracts and scheduled presentations.

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