Prostate cancer research: exercise and coffee

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Preliminary research presented this week at the Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research conference in Houston, reveals promising findings about the role that exercise and coffee could play in the fight against prostate cancer. An analysis of activity levels among 2,686 prostate cancer patients showed that men who jogged, played tennis or participated in other comparable exercise for an average of three or more hours per week had 35% lower mortality rates than those who exercised less frequently or not at all. For patients who walked regularly—for four or more hours per week—overall mortality rates were 23% lower than those of men who walked for fewer than 20 minutes per week. And for those who kept up a brisk pace while walking, the benefits were even more pronounced: Prostate cancer patients who maintained a faster walking pace for 90 minutes or more each week had 51% lower risk of mortality from any cause, compared with those who strolled for fewer than 90 minutes each week.

While walking improved mortality rates overall, it didn’t have an effect on patients’ risk of dying from prostate cancer specifically. However, participating in more vigorous exercise on a regular basis did. Patients who engaged in vigorous exercise for five hours or longer each week were less likely to die from prostate cancer, researchers concluded.

Other preliminary research presented at the conference found a correlation between coffee consumption and lower risk for advanced prostate cancer. Researchers from the Channing Laboratory at the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data for 50,000 men, whose coffee drinking habits were assessed every four years between 1986 to 2006. They found that men who consumed the most coffee had a significantly reduced risk—60%—of developing aggressive prostate cancer compared with men who drank no coffee. Kathryn M. Wilson, the doctoral fellow who led the research, suggests that it isn’t the caffeine, but rather coffee’s influence on insulin and hormone levels that may help explain the trend. Obviously these initial findings aren’t going to have doctors prescribing lattes, but at the very least, the researchers say, the study suggests that men diagnosed with prostate cancer shouldn’t worry about kicking their coffee habits as part of a treatment regime.