How Exercise and Vitamin D Can Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk
Exercise is one of the most important predictors of long-term health. Without exercise, i.e. living a sedentary lifestyle, we increase our risk for a number of problems not least of which is are certain forms of cancer. Beyond the tangible improvements in health that we see from exercise, regular cardio and strength training can even improve some mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and mood problems.
The connection between physical activity and the risk of prostate cancer
Physical activity has been shown, through multiple studies, to lower the risk of prostate cancer. This lowered risk is not substantial, but lower, nonetheless. However, men who have prostate cancer already may also benefit from physical activity – with an improvement in survival. This is because maintaining a healthy weight through good muscle mass and proper exercise is excellent for reducing inflammation throughout the body. Further, many patients will improve or overcome their insulin resistance. Excess insulin production can increase the risk of prostate cancer. Lastly, but not least, better health through proper diet and exercise can also reduce the risk of complications if surgery or other treatment is needed.
Of course, the regular course of diagnosis and potential treatment still must be followed. As we have discussed elsewhere on this website, Dr. Engel stratifies prostate cancer cases with the knowledge that not all prostate cancers need to be treated. Some can be watched and tracked over time. With that said, as we age, certain physical activities may not be as helpful as others. For example, high impact exercises may be wholistically beneficial on one hand, but detrimental to joints on the other. therefore, when starting a new exercise program, especially in middle to advanced age, we encourage you to discuss this with your primary care physician.
What about vitamin D?
We discuss vitamin D for several reasons. First, it is an essential vitamin that aids in the absorption of calcium. Maintaining proper levels can also improve a host of other physical and psychological ailments. Second, exercising outside is a great way to increase the absorption of vitamin D. Third, as we transition into fall and winter, we will most certainly get less vitamin D from exposure to the sun alone.
Unfortunately, deficiency in vitamin D is a problem in the US, which puts us at risk for a host of issues. Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of prostate cancer. Further, it seems that vitamin D may also be associated with the severity of prostate cancer. We are still trying to understand why this is the case.
What to do?
It is important to have your blood checked for common deficiencies, including vitamin D, at your regular physical with your primary care physician. If you have been diagnosed with low levels of vitamin D, speak to your doctor about how to increase them. It may be as simple as getting outside more or taking a vitamin D3 supplement.
Dr. Engel uses a methodical approach toward prostate cancer using trends in PSA as his guide. The most important responsibility patients have is to visit their urologist as recommended to screen for prostate cancer. While many cases are not aggressive, it remains important to find them and develop an appropriate treatment or observation plan. To learn more, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Engel.