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Chronic disease is an overlooked risk factor for cancer

Physical activity reduced cancer risk in people with chronic disease markers. Picture: iStock

Chronic conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease are linked to an increase in the incidence of cancer. Cancer and other chronic diseases share common risk factors including ageing and unhealthy lifestyles, for example, smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity and alcohol misuse.

This Taiwanese study examined the association between chronic diseases and cancer and the benefit of physical activity in reducing the risk of cancer in people with certain chronic diseases.

The researchers followed 405,878 participants who had markers for cardiovascular disease (blood pressure, total cholesterol and heart rate), diabetes, chronic kidney disease markers (proteinuria and glomerular filtration rate), pulmonary disease, and gouty arthritis marker (uric acid). The participants were followed for an average of 8.7 years.

Researchers found that there was a substantial increase in risk of cancer in people with a combination of chronic disease markers, which was equally as important as five lifestyle factors combined.

Physical activity was found to be important in reducing cancer risk for people with chronic disease markers, with as little as 15 minutes a day associated with a 10% reduction in cancer mortality, and every 15 minutes beyond that associated with a further 1% reduction. These findings emphasise the need to control the various chronic disease markers where possible and also the need to promote and maintain physical activity.

Tu H, Wen C, Tsai S et al (2018) Cancer risk associated with chronic diseases and disease markers: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 360k134

Compiled by Ruth Sander, independent consultant in care of the older person

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