Taking regular exercise is likely to decrease the chances of getting bowel cancer, say scientists. Swedish experts have gathered up all the evidence on the issue, and say that it points more firmly than ever to this conclusion.
The research, carried out by the Cancer Research Campaing and Swedish Cancer Foundation, combined and analysed the results of more than 60 separate studies into bowel cancer. It found that people who exercised regulatly were 50% less likely to develop the disease.
Dr Linda Sharp, from Aberdeen University, found that sport, manual work, and even hiking and gardening all seemed to count as exercise in terms of cancer protection. She said: "This is exciting, because it provides a relatively easy way for us all to reduce our risk of this terrible disease."We've analysed a wide range of studies looking at many different types of physical activity, and taken together they provide convincing evidence that exercise really does protect against bowel cancer."
It is not clear yet why exercise should help - it may alter levels of hormones which are key to cancer development, or perhaps alter the speed at which food moves through the bowel, which may also have a bearing.
Professor Gordon McVie, Director General of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: regular physical activity doesn't have to mean running a marathon each week. "A brisk walk for half an hour, five times a week, is as good a way as any of getting the exercise we need." Exercise is also well recognised as protective against other illnesses such as heart disease.