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New Reports Highlight the Critical Role of Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, Treatment, and Survival

, by DCEG Staff

Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Cancer Risk. Physical Activity is associated with lower risk of these cancers: Esophageal, Breast, Lung, Stomach, Kidney, Bladder, Colorectal, Endometrial. Sedentary Behavior is associated with higher risk of these cancers: Lung, Colorectal, Endometrial. Citation: Patel et al. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2019.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) International Multidisciplinary Roundtable on Exercise and Cancer updated the evidence showing the potential for physical activity to reduce risk for multiple cancers and recommended more systematic use of an “exercise prescription” by medical providers and fitness professionals working with cancer patients and survivors. 

A trio of papers reviewing the current evidence and updating recommendations for physical activity and exercise for cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship was released in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians on October 16, 2019. The Roundtable was organized by the American College of Sports Medicine and co-led by Charles E. Matthews, Ph.D., senior investigator and Steven C. Moore, Ph.D., M.P.H. Earl Stadtman Investigator in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, and collaborators across the NIH, including experts from the NCI Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, the NIH Office of Disease Prevention, and the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Regular physical activity has been linked with numerous health benefits, including reduced risk for multiple types of cancer and improved survival and quality of life among cancer survivors. However, many clinicians do not routinely advise cancer patients or survivors to engage in physical activity for various reasons including lack of awareness on the benefits of exercise for this patient population, or uncertainty regarding safety and suitability. This set of comprehensive reviews establishes the benefits of physical activity for cancer prevention, and that exercise is generally safe and well-tolerated, and improves physical functioning, reduces anxiety and depressive-symptoms, and mitigates fatigue during and after cancer treatments. The guidelines encourage health care and fitness professionals to recommend physical activity for cancer prevention and to provide exercise prescriptions that best meet the needs, preferences, and abilities of individuals living with and beyond cancer.

Read more about the reviews and guidelines in the NIH Director’s Blog.


Patel, AV, et al, American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable Report on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Cancer Prevention and Control. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 51 no. 11 (Nov 2019): 2391-2402. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002117.

Campbell KL, et al. Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors: Consensus Statement from International Multidisciplinary Roundtable. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 51 no. 11 (Nov 2019): 2375-90. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002116

Schmitz KH, et al. Exercise is medicine in oncology: Engaging clinicians to help patients move through cancer. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Oct 16, 2019. DOI: 10.3322/caac.21579. [Epub before print].

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