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IntroA cancer diagnosis can be a devastating event but some may also be preventable. In fact, an estimated half of all cancer deaths are avoidable by practicing healthy lifestyle habits, according to the American Cancer Society.
One of the most potent cancer-fighting weapons is exercise. While the benefits of a regular fitness program include keeping the pounds off, improving blood pressure and mental outlook, exercise can also halt the onset of some diseases. Several studies have shown that physical activity is linked with decreased risk of some cancers, particularly breast and colon cancer.
It is never too late to begin a fitness program, said Dr. Priscilla Furth, a professor of oncology at Georgetown University Medical Center's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"The good news is that it doesn't matter [when you begin], in that you will see a benefit from exercise at whatever age you are," Furth said.
Here are seven cancers that scientific research has shown can be stalled by exercise:
Endometrial cancerSlide 2 of 15
Women who exercised for 150 minutes a week or more had a 34 percent lower risk of endometrial cancer (a cancer that begins in the lining of the uterus) than those who weren't active, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health reported this week at the Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference.
The researchers also found women with a body mass index (BMI) below 25 had a 73 percent reduced risk, compared with inactive women whose BMI was above 25. People with a BMI of over 25 are considered overweight.Slide 3 of 15
Colorectal cancerSlide 4 of 15
People who followed healthy lifestyle habits, including exercising for more than 30 minutes daily, lowered their risk of colorectal cancer, according to a study published online in October in the British Medical Journal.
In fact, 23 percent of colorectal cancers were preventable, had study participants adhered to the five lifestyle recommendations , according to researchers from the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen. The study was based on a survey of 55,489 men and women between the ages of 50 and 64, who were followed for almost a ten-year period.Slide 5 of 15
Prostate cancerSlide 6 of 15
Though several studies were inconclusive, some findings suggest a link between physical activity and a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Men who had regular recreational exercise showed a lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer or dying from the disease, compared with those who reported no physical activity, according to a 2006 study in the International Journal of Cancer. And a 2005 study of Chinese men in the European Journal of Epidemiology showed moderate exercise may shield against prostate cancer .
Furth advises personalizing an exercise routine. Pick an activity that you enjoy doing, then focus on intensity, she said.
"It is not so much what you are doing but how intense you're doing it," she said. "You can do some vigorous gardening, and you're out there working really hard, digging. Alternatively, you could be going out running so slowly you never even get you heart rate up."Slide 7 of 15
Breast cancerSlide 8 of 15