Physical activity reduces late effects and improves outcomes: the clinical evidence and biological mechanisms of action

Robert Thomas1

1Bedford & Addenbrooke’s Cambridge University Hospitals & Cranfield University, Bedford, UK


Through a combination of earlier detection and enhanced multidisciplinary management, the chances of surviving cancer are significantly improving. As a result, the number of individuals who have undergone the trauma of cancer is growing by 3% per annum, which means by 2030, there will be over 3 million people in UK society, including a quarter of people over 65 years. Unfortunately, many suffer acute and long-term physical and psychological adverse effects which can effect their quality of life and require medical intervention in primary and secondary care.

Fortunately, a physically active lifestyle and particularly supervised exercise rehabilitation programmes improve many of these adverse effects, particularly cancer-related fatigue, weight gain, arthralgia, hot flushes, muscle power, peripheral neuropathy, overall quality of life, mood, anxiety and depression. What's more, the benefits of physical activity span across several common cancer types involving range of treatments, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal and biological therapies. This talk provides and up to date summary of the principal randomised controlled trials, which provide the most robust evidence for the symptomatic benefits of physical activity.

This talk also focuses on the biological changes which occur after physical activity which have potential anti-cancer attributes. These could explain the strong links between higher physical activity (PA), relapse and over survival seen in numerous large prospective cohort studies which are also summaried along with updates of other ongoing studies and UK projects.