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Patients who have been diagnosed with cancer should be advised to lose weight and begin an exercise regime immediately to double their chances of survival, world experts have said.
Dozens of studies presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology at their conference in Chicago over the weekend showed that patients who were a healthy weight were 50% more likely to survive as those who were obese. Weight loss and exercise were not just shown to be key in cancer prevention, but also as important as drugs and chemotherapy in the treatment of the disease.
As the UK Institute for Health and care Excellence (NICE) promised a review into prescribed exercise for cancer patients, Doctors at the conference called for exercise and lifestyle change to be prescribed along medication.
One of the studies by Yale University, found that just 3 hours of walking a week led to a 46% reduction in mortality rates of the 300 women with breast cancer who took part. The conference was also told that a Mediterranean style diet high in unsaturated fats, oils, vegetables and fish could reduce the risk of recurring breast cancer.
Other researchers at Stanford and Harvard Universities found that overweight women with high blood pressure who were diagnosed with breast cancer were 69% more likely to die than those of a healthy weight who exercised. Their 10 year study also found that abdominal fat increased the risk of cancer death by a staggering 69%.
Melinda Irwin, who led some of the studies said
“after treatment, weight loss is the most powerful thing you can do. It’s the next best pill to treatment and it’s free and has no side-effects. Every woman when diagnosed with breast cancer should be counselled about weight loss and weight management and about the role of exercise.”
The University of Montreal went as far as recommending that cancer patients should be provided with personal trainers as a cost effective way of improving chances of survival. Fred Saad, consultant oncologist from the University said:
“exercise and weight loss increase survival rates, and high-intensity exercise — spurred on by a trainer — is more effective than exercising alone. We are seeing that intense structured exercise programmes, led by a trainer, have a better effect on the immune system than gentle movement”.
He is currently conducting a ground-breaking study on 1000 men with late-stage metastatic cancer to test the effect of higher intensity training on cancer survival rates. Dr Saad hopes that the study will be enough for National Health services to take exercise and diet as seriously as drugs in treatment.