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For Survivors of Childhood Cancer, Walk

Exercise improves the long-term health of those who experienced childhood cancers.

Exercise could improve the life expectancy of adults who survive cancer as children, even if the activity begins years after treatments end, according to an inspiring new study.

But the study also finds that many survivors rarely, if ever, move much.

In one of the most stirring success stories of modern medicine, many childhood cancers are now treatable, including types that once would have been fatal.

But there can be costs associated with these advances. Some of the standard treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation, are known to weaken the heart or increase the risks for subsequent tumors, including in children.

As a consequence, young people who survive cancer tend to die, on average, about 10 years earlier than unaffected adults of the same age, epidemiological studies show. In some cases they die from recurrences of their original malignancies, but more often from early heart disease or new cancers.

Exercise is known, of course, to reduce the risk that someone will develop or die from heart disease. It also can lessen the incidence of a number of types of cancer.

But whether physical activity likewise might affect and extend the life spans of people who survived childhood cancers has not been known.

So, for the new study, which was published this month in JAMA Oncology, researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and other institutions turned to a singular resource, the Childhood Cancer Survivorship Study.

This is a large database of health information about adults from the United States and Canada who are at least five years away from a diagnosis of any type of cancer found before they turned 21. When these participants first join the study, they complete a variety of medical tests and questionnaires and then, in subsequent years, repeat the testing occasionally.

Now, the researchers winnowed the database to find participants who had answered a specific question about their current physical activity habits. That question asked them whether and how often they had exercised in the past week at an intensity that made them “sweat or breathe hard (e.g., jogging, basketball, etc.)?”

Read on: For Survivors of Childhood Cancer, Walk – The New York Times

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