Physical activity and cancer

Jun 13th, 2014

Michelle Osmond

Physical activity and cancer

Two out of five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime and 25 per cent will die of the disease, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. And, according to research, of the new cancer cases being diagnosed 28 per cent occur in those 60-69 years and 43 per cent in those 70 years or older. These older cancer survivors often experience a greater reduction in quality of life (QoL), physical function, and overall health as well as an increased risk of developing secondary cancers and other chronic disease.

Research has shown that physical activity (PA) has improved disease outcomes and Qol. Other recent research suggests that interventions to change behaviour can improve PA in cancer survivors. Dr. Erin McGowan is helping to strengthen the connection between PA behaviour and cancer prevention as well as improve the quality of life for survivors by studying what interventions will have the most impact.

Dr. McGowan is overseeing two studies related to physical activity and cancer. The first, A trial of a behaviour change intervention to increase aerobic and resistance exercise and quality of life in older prostate and breast cancer survivors: The OutPACE trial, will look at how effective a goal setting and planning intervention is in improving the quality of life in older prostate and breast cancer survivors. With kinesiology graduate student Richard Buote, the research will look different strategies for promoting PA.

Researchers studying breast cancer survivors have found that those who had a poorer health-related QoL were more likely to have breast cancer recurrence, and had higher rates of all-cause mortality. Findings have already demonstrated the importance of behaviour change interventions for increasing PA levels in cancer survivors. But researchers in HKR want to know exactly what type of intervention will be most successful at creating these changes and what activities should be involved in order to create the greatest improvements in QoL and other health outcomes.

“With any behaviour change intervention, it’s so important to have an accurate measure of PA to determine if the behaviour has in fact changed,” notes Dr. McGowan. “This study will use accelerometers, a device that records information about a participant’s real-world activity. It assesses duration of activity and also intensity. The results of this study will help us to create exercise/physical activity programs for cancer survivors.”

The second study, Exploring the effects of a Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) intervention on changing exercise intentions and exercise behavior to prevent breast cancer with graduate student Stephanie Malone, will explore the effect of a media-based behaviour change intervention on beliefs toward breast cancer. It’ll also look at intentions to exercise and actual exercise behaviour in inactive, overweight women who are at an increased risk for developing breast cancer.

“A large percentage of breast cancer cases have been linked to physical inactivity and regular physical activity may potentially decrease the risk of developing breast cancer,” explains Dr. McGowan. “PMT has been suggested to increase exercise intention and health-related behaviours such as exercise and it has the potential to increase adaptive behaviours in those at risk for this cancer type.”

With support from Thera-band Inc., Dr. McGowan is partnering with Drs. Kevin Power and David Behm from HKR, both certified exercise physiologists, to develop one of the exercise training programs. 



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