Physical activity in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer

Keywords: Cancers, Leisure activity, Neoplasms, Occupational activity, Prevention, Sports participation


Objective: The objectives of this review were to examine the effectiveness of regular physical activity in the prevention of prostate cancer, to note the functional disturbances associated with the use of androgen deprivation therapy, and to assess the potential of exercise programmes in alleviating these side effects.

Methods: The findings of previous reviews were supplemented by a search of the Ovid/Medline and PubMed data bases from 1996 to June 2016, looking for linkages between prostate cancer, the physical demands of occupation, reported leisure activity, involvement in sports, and attained levels of aerobic fitness.

Results: At least 85 analyses have examined the influence of various forms of habitual activity upon the risk of prostate cancer, with about a quarter of reports showing a significantly lower risk in more active individuals, and a further quarter of studies a similar but non-significant trend. Findings are somewhat more consistent for occupational than for leisure activity, a risk reduction of 34% and 38% being associated with the 2 types of activity. The optimal age and pattern of preventive activity remains unclear, and possible underlying mechanisms have yet to be clarified. Androgen deprivation therapy following surgery or irradiation of a prostate tumour causes a loss of aerobic power, strength and bone density, with a reduced quality of life, and appropriately designed exercise programmes seem to have a role in countering such side-effects.

Conclusions: Regular physical activity appears to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. More research is needed to prove this categorically, but the likely extent of benefit of around 35% is sufficient for this to be one further factor pointing the need for encouraging physical activity in the general population. Regular activity also seems of value in countering the side-effects of androgen-deprivation therapy.

Author Biography

Roy J. Shephard, University of Toronto
Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto
How to Cite
Shephard, R. J. (2016). Physical activity in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. The Health & Fitness Journal of Canada, 9(2), 56-107.

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