New research supported by the Canadian Cancer Society shows that many cancer survivors in Canada are overweight and inactive, which could put them at risk for health problems, including their cancer returning.
The research team from Edmonton analyzed data from a 2005 Community Health Survey of more than 114,000 adults. The study-the first of its kind in Canada-published this week in the journal Cancer, showed that:
- only about 21 per cent of cancer survivors, and about 25 per cent of Canadians in general, are physically active;
- about 18 per cent of cancer survivors report being obese, compared to about 15 per cent of Canadians in general;
- an additional 34 per cent of cancer survivors report being overweight, compared to about 37 per cent of Canadians in general;
- 53 per cent of all the cancer survivors, or one in two survivors, were overweight or obese, compared to 52 per cent of Canadians in general;
- male cancer survivors were more likely to be overweight or obese than female cancer survivors (62 per cent versus 47 per cent);
- the lowest levels of physical activity were among colorectal cancer survivors, breast cancer survivors and female melanoma survivors;
- the highest levels of physical activity and lowest levels of obesity were among prostate cancer survivors; skin cancer survivors were also more active than the general population.
The research findings show the percentage of cancer patients who are overweight and inactive is comparable to the rest of Canadians.
"It's a challenge for all of us to eat properly and exercise, and it may be especially challenging for cancer survivors who have been through difficult treatments and may have lingering health issues," said the lead researcher Dr. Courneya. "But eating well and exercising are two of the best things we can do for our mental and physical health, even in trying times. Rest is rarely the best medicine for any health condition."
Survey questions asked details about survivors' levels, types and quantity of physical activity during the previous three months, such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, skating, dancing and playing sports. From the answers obtained, researchers were able to determine-and label-how physically active the participant was during treatment and recovery.
"Physically active" is defined as the equivalent of one hour of walking a day, "moderately active" is equal to 30 minutes a day and "inactive" is less than 30 minutes of walking a day.
"Obese" is defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher. (BMI is a person's weight in kilograms divided by their height in metres squared). "Overweight" is defined as having a BMI of 25 or higher.
The Canadian Cancer Society has funded previous research showing that exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women and can improve the quality of life of prostate cancer patients. The Society also encourages Canadians to adopt a healthy lifestyle to minimize their risk of cancer, including eating well and maintaining a healthy body weight. These steps may also prevent the disease from coming back.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.