Consistent exercise associated with lower risk of colon cancer death

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Wolin, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Public Health Sciences, says the benefits of starting an exercise program include not just preventing colon cancer and death from the disease, but also reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and other cancers.

She says the greatest benefits seem to accrue in those who have exercised for the largest percentage of their lives. But it isn’t necessary to run marathons or to work out for many hours every day.

“You get enormous ‘bang for the buck,’” she says. “You go for a 30-minute walk every day, and you’re going to reduce your risk of a number of diseases. And in addition, our research has also shown that you feel better, physically and mentally, so you’re able to function better.”

And physical activity even can be beneficial after a cancer diagnosis already has been made.

“There is evidence that being physically active can reduce the risk of recurrence and death following a cancer diagnosis,” Wolin says. “So even those who haven’t been physically active can begin exercising after their diagnosis and see some real benefits as well.”

For more information about lifestyle changes and individual cancer risk, visit

Wolin KY, Patel AV, Campbell PT, Jacobs EJ, McCullough ML, Colditz GA, Gapstur SM. Change in physical activity and colon cancer incidence and mortality, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, vol. 19(12), pp. 3000-3004. Dec. 2010

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and by the American Cancer Society.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Siteman Cancer Center encompasses the combined cancer-related programs of Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. It is the only cancer center within 250 miles of St. Louis designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.

It has locations at Washington University Medical Center on South Kingshighway, at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and has plans to open a facility in south St. Louis County in 2012.