A recent study published in The International Journal of Cancer found that moderate physical activity was associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer.
Researchers examined patient survey responses from over 400 women with ovarian cancer and over 2,100 healthy women who were participants in the Canadian National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System (NECSS) to study the role of physical activity and the risk of developing ovarian cancer. The results showed that high levels of moderate recreational activity were correlated with a decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer. Women who held jobs that required moderate or strenuous activity also had a decreased risk. Interestingly, there was no decrease in risk for women who participated in vigorous physical activity. The study also broke down the disease by tumor type and found that moderate exercise reduced the incidence of certain types of ovarian tumors but not others.
Scientists speculate that physical activity may prevent ovarian cancer by regulating hormone and growth factor levels, enhancing the immune system and improving the antioxidant defense system. Overweight and obese women benefited slightly more than thinner women. Obesity, especially around the waistline, has been shown to increase ovarian cancer risk, and physical activity can reduce that fat. However, physical activity also lowered ovarian cancer risk for women with normal body mass index (BMI), according to researchers, suggesting that there are other factors to consider.
Ovarian cancer has few symptoms and is often diagnosed in its latest stages leading to poor prognosis. Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer among women (not including skin cancer) and the number four cause of cancer death among women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
This study has important implications because it demonstrates that lifestyle modification has the potential to reduce a woman’s chances of developing ovarian cancer. Physical activity is also known to be of benefit in reducing the incidence of breast and colon cancer.