Men with prostate cancer can improve their outcomes if they walk briskly for at least three hours a week following their diagnosis, according to a recent study in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
"It appears that men who walk briskly after their diagnosis may delay or even prevent progression of their disease," said lead researcher Erin Richman, Sc.D., a research associate at the University of California, San Francisco.
Richman said the evidence adds to the growing body of literature that suggests walking regularly may prevent a variety of adverse health problems, including cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
"Walking is something everyone can and should do to improve their health," she said.
Richman and colleagues observed 1,455 men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer that had not spread beyond the prostate. These patients reported their physical activity by questionnaire about 27 months after their diagnosis and prior to any evidence of recurrence or second treatment.
Researchers recorded 117 events, including biochemical recurrences (elevations in PSA), secondary treatments, bone metastasis and prostate cancer-specific death. They found that men who walked briskly for at least three hours a week had a 57 percent lower rate of progression of disease than men who walked at an easy pace for less than three hours a week.
"The benefit from walking truly depended on how quickly you walked. Walking at an easy pace did not seem to have any benefit," said Richman.
This collaborative group also recently reported in a separate cohort of men with prostate cancer that vigorous physical activity after diagnosis was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer-specific death.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men, and more than 2.2 million men in the United States currently live with the disease. In 2010, there were 217,000 new cases.
Stephen M. Schwartz, Ph.D., a full member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a senior editor of Cancer Research, said this study is important because research on the role of physical activity in prostate cancer has been relatively sparse.
"We have had some studies that show a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer, but this is strong evidence of a benefit after someone is diagnosed," said Schwartz.