World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has announced two new studies, which report that a reduction in sedentary behaviour has a positive impact on the quality of life after colorectal cancer (CRC). The first study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, analysed nearly 400 bowel cancer survivors for two years to assess how sedentary behaviour and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity impact health-related quality of life and fatigue. The results show that a combination of leading a less sedentary lifestyle and doing more physical activity are beneficial for health-related quality of life and fatigue levels in this population.
Importantly, the findings also show that even without increasing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels, decreasing prolonged sedentary behaviour can still have a positive impact. This may be particularly relevant for those survivors who may not be able to perform activities at moderate to vigorous intensity, for instance brisk walking or running, because of their older age and/or presence of comorbidities.
For those survivors, replacing sedentary behaviour with activities such as gentle housework or light walking may be especially important, and could therefore be a relevant target for lifestyle interventions. Moreover, the study shows that the combination of sitting less and moving more can especially improve the daily functioning of survivors after the end of cancer treatment.
The mechanisms causing this are not yet known, but further research led by Professor Matty Weijenberg, ‘Longitudinal associations of physical activity with plasma metabolites among colorectal cancer survivors up to 2 years after treatment’, published in Scientific Reports, found that high levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in bowel cancer survivors is associated with anti-inflammatories in the body. This could potentially explain the health-enhancing effects of physical activity in bowel cancer survivors and supports its future integration into post-treatment care in this population.
"Being physically active is one of WCRF's 10 key Cancer Prevention Recommendations. What this new research tells us is that adhering to these lifestyle recommendations will also have a huge positive impact for survivors of bowel cancer,” said Dr Anna Diaz Font, Head of Research Funding at World Cancer Research Fund. “It adds to our growing body of research that being physically active and not leading a sedentary lifestyle can not only prevent cancer, but also help to improve quality of life during survival."
Lead researcher, Dr Martijn Bours of Maastricht University commented on the findings that "we are at an exciting age in bowel cancer research, where we are seeing a growing population of people who are surviving the illness. But it is common to see long-lasting health problems related to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, for instance, fatigue and nerve damage following chemotherapy, which can have a negative impact on daily functioning and quality of life. Whilst we need to do more investigational studies to confirm these findings, this research suggests that by being physically active and reducing the amount of sedentary time, we may be able to reduce the impact of these long-lasting health problems and improve the daily functioning and quality of life of cancer survivors."