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Saturday, 16 August 2008 19:13

Greek researchers get to bottom of prostate cancer and physical activity

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According to a University of Athens study, men who sit and work at desk jobs are much more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who stand and work at manual labor jobs.


The article that summarizes the Greek researchers work is entitled “Occupational physical activity in relation with prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia.” It is published in the August 2008 issue of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention (17(4): 336-339).

The authors of the article are Areti Lagiou; Evi Samoli; Christina Georgila; Ploumi Minaki; Anastasia Barbouni; Anastasia Tzonou; Dimitrios Trichopoulos; and Pagona Lagiou, all associated with the University of Athens, Greece.

The Greek researchers, led by Pagona Lagiou, used data from two studies, which were conducted between 1994 and 1997. They examined the relationship between the level of occupational physical activity (from sedate to rigorous activity) and the risk of prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Dr. Lagiou is an adjunct associate professor of epidemiology (Department of Epidemiology) at Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.; associate professor of hygiene and epidemiology at the University of Athens Medical School, Greece; and adjunct associate professor of epidermiology at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

BPH is defined as the benign enlargement of the prostate (BEP), which is a non-life-threatening (benign) condition (that often requires surgery) where the prostate increases in size especially in middle-aged and elderly men, making it difficult to urinate. The prostate only effects men because it is part of the male reproductive system.

The Greek researchers studied 320 patients with “histological confirmed incident prostate cancer” and 184 patients with “surgically treated PHP,” as stated within the abstract to their paper. In addition, 246 patients, who were hospitalized for minor conditions, were used as a control group.

Page two continues the article.




The researchers independently and blindly grouped the men’s occupations before retirement as either being of high, medium, or low physical activity levels, along with controlling for educational level. They then asked the men questions relating to their jobs.

The researchers concluded that “… there was a suggestive inverse association of physical activity with prostate cancer (P for trend 0.12) and a significant one with BPH (P for trend 0.04). The odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for high versus low activity was 0.69 (0.40-1.22) for prostate cancer and 0.59 (0.31-1.11) for BPH."

It continues to say, "The association of physical activity with both conditions tended to be more pronounced among men 65 years old or younger. Given the high frequency of occurrence of the examined conditions in the male population and our limited knowledge about other modifiable risk factors, preventive measures may have to focus on increasing physical activity.”

In other words, men in sedentary jobs were found to be 31% more likely to have prostate cancer and 41% more likely to have a non-cancerous condition called BPH.

According to the News.com.au article “Desk jobs increase risk of prostate cancer,” “Men who worked as civil servants, teachers or in office jobs were much more likely to get cancer than those who spend much of their day on their feet, such as labourers, bakers, and barbers.”

The study by the Greek researchers confirms the benefit of regular exercise for men, especially if men work at sedate jobs where they sit all day.

In fact, Dr. Lagiou states in the News.com.au article, "In 1997, physical activity was not even listed as a possible protective factor against prostate cancer. During the last decade, however, evidence has accumulated it may convey protection."

Check out page three for statistics on prostate cancer.




Around the world, rates of prostate cancer vary widely.

It is least common in South and East Asia, more common in Europe, and most common in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer is least common among Asian-American men and most common among African-American men, with in-between rates for Caucasian-American men.

Prostate cancer develops most frequently in men over fifty years of age. It is the most common type of cancer in men in the United States, where it is responsible for more male deaths than any other cancer, except lung cancer. In the United Kingdom (UK), prostate cancer is also the second most common cause of cancer death after lung cancer. Around 35,000 men in the UK are diagnosed per year; and approximately 10,000 men die from it annually.

According to the ACS, about 186,320 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2008. The organization states that about one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.

However, only one in 35 men will die from the cancer. The ACS estimates that about 28,660 men will die from prostate cancer in 2008, and will cause 9% of the cancer-deaths in men. [ACS: “What Are the Key Statistics About Prostate Cancer?”]

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (“Prostate Cancer Related Statistics”), there is a 12 in 1,000 chance for a 50-year-old men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in Australia. That chance goes up to 45 in 1,000 for a sixty-year-old man, and 80 in 1,000 for a seventy-year-old man.

In addition, about 18,700 news cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year in Australia, with nearly 3,000 men dying annually from the disease. Only about one in nine men in Australia will develop prostate cancer during their lifetimes. It is the most common cancer for men in Australia, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men.


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