A study in the most recent edition of Obesity for the first time finds that fitness is more important than fatness in decreasing cancer mortality in men.
For the study, researchers from the not-for-profit Cooper Institute in Dallas tracked 38,410 men who completed a comprehensive baseline physical examination at Cooper Clinic in Dallas that included a maximal treadmill exercise test and measures of body mass index (BMI), percent body fat, and waist circumference. The men were then followed for an average of 17.2 years, during which 1,032 deaths from cancer occurred.
According to the researchers, there was a direct correlation between all measures of adiposity (body fat) and cancer mortality, with leaner men registering a significantly lower risk of cancer mortality than their fatter counterparts. In addition, the researchers also found a strong inverse relationship between cardio-respiratory fitness level and cancer mortality, with less fit men having a higher risk of cancer mortality than their fitter counterparts.
In a separate analysis of cancer risk and fitness levels among men of various body sizes, the researchers found that fitness was the better determinant of future cancer mortality risk, with fit men in the normal, overweight or obese categories experiencing significantly lower death rates from cancer than unfit men.
Commenting on the findings, the study’s lead author notes that Cooper Institute research has long shown that “fitness is more important than fatness in decreasing the risk of heart disease. Now we know the same is true about death from all cancers among men. This is an important breakthrough to improve men’s health.” Based on these findings he recommends that “sedentary men of all body fatness levels should strive to become at least moderately fit in order to decrease the risk of cancer mortality.”