Among America’s leading causes of death, cancer is the most terrifying and unpredictable. While most people have at least some control over whether they’ll develop heart disease, or even control for many factors that lead to strokes and diabetes, cancers can manifest for seemingly no reason at all. And no part of your body is safe — the disease can form and go undetected for long periods of time just about anywhere.
Though there are things you can do to decrease your risks, you’re never going to be in the clear. Malignant tumors can form as a result of all sorts of things, too. From eating certain types of foods to simply going outside in the sun, carcinogens are lurking anywhere and everywhere.
But according to a study, there’s one surefire way to reduce your risks for as many as 26 different types, and probably more: exercise. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine, the study looked at 1.4 million people over the course of 11 years and found that “leisure-time physical activity was associated with lower risks of many cancer types.”
By gauging the differing amounts of exercise and physical activity among the participants, the researchers found that simply getting more exercise is enough to significantly decrease the chances of a diagnosis. Here are the top 13 types that were found to be the most defeated by increased exercise.
13. Breast cancer
Few diseases get more attention in the media than breast cancer (and for good reason), and you’ll be glad to know that according to this study, regular exercise was tied to a 10% reduction in diagnoses. And men, don’t think that only women need to worry about their breasts — it can happen to you too.
12. Bladder cancer
Few things sound scarier than bladder cancer, but this study says that you can reduce your odds of getting it by 13% through regular exercise. Older white men seem to be most likely to come down with a case of this specific type, and smoking will increase your chances as well.
11. Rectal cancer
You can chalk rectal cancer up there as one of the most cringe-worthy types that you can be diagnosed with. As with the bladder, you can spare your rectum with regular exercise and physical activity by as much as 13%.
10. Head and neck cancer
Exercise can help you increase your odds of avoiding a diagnosis north of your neckline by up to 15%, per this study. That includes all sorts of cancers — ranging from your neck to your head and brain.
9. Colon cancer
Though you might conflate rectal and colon cancer, they are two different types. Exercise can help ward off a colon cancer diagnosis by as much as 16%, the study says. There are a lot of genetic and heredity factors at play with this type as well, so be sure to keep an eye out if you’re already at risk.
You may not be familiar with myeloma, but it’s a type of cancer that forms in specific types of white blood cells called plasma cells. It causes these cells to become malignant and actively turn your body’s immune system against you. But you can decrease your odds of getting it by 17% by exercising.
7. Myeloid leukemia
Very similar to myeloma, myeloid leukemia is another type of cancer that infects your blood and white blood cells, as well as your bone marrow. In the case of this type, you can lower your chances of a diagnosis by 20% through regular exercise.
6. Endometrial cancer
For women, endometrial cancer is a serious concern. Warning signs include vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain, as this type actively infects the uterus and causes malignant growths along the inner lining. Scary stuff, but risks can be lowered by 21% by exercising regularly.
5. Stomach cancer
As we’ve covered previously, research shows that we can significantly increase our odds of getting stomach cancer by eating certain types of red meats, drinking alcohol, and being out of shape. Jumping right off of that last point, getting into shape and keeping your body fat percentage in check can help in a big way, especially through regular exercise. You can lower your odds by 22%, according to the study.
4. Kidney cancer
Lower your risks of kidney problems by 23% by exercising, the study says. Also, lay off the cigarettes and alcohol, and do your best to stay in shape. A big risk factor is simply aging, but there are things you can do to ward off kidney issues.
3. Lung cancer
The easiest way to maintain healthy lungs as you age? Don’t smoke. But some people live in areas with heavy air pollution and other risk factors. Exercise is an incredibly powerful tool for avoiding lung diseases, it can lower your odds by as much as 26%.
2. Liver cancer
Your risk of cancers of the liver can be reduced by 27%, according to the study. Of course, you’ll also want to go easy on the alcohol consumption, and keep an eye out if you have any other common risk factors, like high blood pressure or diabetes.
1. Esophageal cancer
Exercise can lower your odds of being diagnosed with esophageal cancer by a whopping 42%, according to the study. That was by far and away the largest risk reduction identified in the study. This type can manifest in people who eschew eating fruits and vegetables and love to slurp very hot beverages. If that describes you, be sure to get plenty of exercise to offset the risks.
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