Exercise’s Anti-Cancer Benefits Vary by Race

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013 10:30 AM

By Nick Tate

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White men benefit more from exercise than blacks, when it comes to reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer, according to the findings of a surprising new study.

The research, published online in the American Cancer Society journal Cancer, found working out can markedly cut white men's prostate cancer risks and the odds that they’ll contract more serious forms of the disease. But the results showed the benefits don’t to apply to African-American men, which may explain the racial disparity in prostate cancer between blacks and whites.

"These findings that African-American men may not benefit from exercise the way Caucasian men do could be a contributor to why ... race is a risk factor for prostate cancer and aggressive prostate cancer,” said lead researcher Lionel L. Bañez, M.D., of the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “Further studies are needed to investigate the mechanism behind this racial disparity in deriving cancer-related benefits from exercise which disfavors African-American men."

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Past studies have found exercise cuts prostate cancer, but that African-American men have an increased risk of developing and dying from the disease.

To investigate the potential role of exercise in the cancer’s risks and development, Dr. Bañez and his colleagues surveyed 307 men — 164 white, 143 black — undergoing a prostate biopsies about their weekly exercise habits. The men were then divided into five groups, based on their activity levels: sedentary, mildly active, moderately active, and highly active.

Among whites, the results showed men who were moderately or highly active were 53 percent less likely to have biopsy results indicating they had prostate cancer, compared with men who were sedentary or mildly active. But among black men, there was no association between exercise levels and prostate cancer rates.

The results also showed that among men with cancer, those who exercised had a 13 percent reduced risk of having more aggressive tumors that were likely to grow and spread quickly. But researchers said that association was far more pronounced among whites than blacks.

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