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Cycling can help reduce risk of prostate cancer, new study suggests

Researchers found boosting cardiorespiratory fitness by three per cent in a year was linked to a 35 per cent lower risk of developing the disease

Cycling could help men reduce their risk of prostate cancer by more than a third, a new study has suggested.

That is the finding of new research out of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which reports that improving cardiovascular fitness by three per cent in a year was linked to a reduced risk (as much as 35 per cent) of developing prostate cancer, suggesting that activities such as cycling, swimming or running can reduce a man's risk of developing the disease.

> Cycling Health Q&A: Prostate problems – time to talk about men's health

Through analysing data of 57,652 men, including physical activity levels, height and BMI (body mass index), as well as lifestyle factors, perceived health, and results from at least two cardiorespiratory fitness tests, the researchers sorted the men into groups depending on whether their annual cardiorespiratory fitness (determined by the amount of oxygen used while exercising as hard as possible) increased by three per cent, fell by three per cent, or remained stable each year.

Notably, during a seven-year follow-up period, the researchers found that 592 participants were diagnosed with prostate cancer (one per cent) and 46 died (0.08 per cent), with those who had improved their fitness by three per cent annually 35 per cent less likely to develop cancer compared with those whose fitness had declined.

Richmond Park 03 copyright Simon MacMichael

Assistant director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, Simon Grievson, commented: "This is an interesting piece of research that adds to previous studies showing possible links between exercise and a lower likelihood of getting prostate cancer. Regularly keeping fit and eating a balanced diet are good for every man's general health and wellbeing – however, we don't know definitively whether physical activity can lower a man’s risk of getting, or dying from, prostate cancer.

"What we do know is that men over 50, black men over 45, and men with a family history of prostate cancer are all at higher risk of getting the disease. The earlier you catch prostate cancer, the easier it is to treat it."

Matt Lambert, from the World Cancer Research Fund, added: "It is widely known that having a higher level of cardiorespiratory fitness is important for our health and longevity, but it can also be protective against certain diseases. This insightful study adds to the evidence around how risk factors such as fitness may play a role in reducing men’s risk of prostate cancer."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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25 comments

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PeterF01 | 2 months ago
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This is a seriously mis-leading and potentially dangerous 'survey' that is simply designed as yet aother whitewashing of the scientific reality of regular cycling on traditional bicycle saddles for the over 50's.

It's common knowledge within the cycling industry that older males riding regularly over (say) 8 hrs per week have a 50% increased risk of elevated PSA (Prostrate Specific Antigen), the main blood indicator for potential prostrate cancer.

I have first hand experiene of this. A long time amateur club rider doing around 12 hrs week of training/road racing well into my 50's - I was the first ever male in my family to contract prostrate cancer. When I was diagnosed several others in my club got tested and the results were shocking.

I highly recommend any serious amateur rider over 50 to immediately get a PSA test, and follow up every 6 to 12 months. Don't ever be fooled by bike-industry spin!

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wtjs replied to PeterF01 | 2 months ago
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I highly recommend any serious amateur rider over 50 to immediately get a PSA test

Or, alternatively, don't take the dubious advice of someone who commits the giveaway 'prostrate' error and don't get a PSA test. Screening with imperfect tests is not necessarily a good idea.

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wycombewheeler replied to PeterF01 | 2 months ago
1 like

PeterF01 wrote:

This is a seriously mis-leading and potentially dangerous 'survey' that is simply designed as yet aother whitewashing of the scientific reality of regular cycling on traditional bicycle saddles for the over 50's.

It's common knowledge within the cycling industry that older males riding regularly over (say) 8 hrs per week have a 50% increased risk of elevated PSA (Prostrate Specific Antigen), the main blood indicator for potential prostrate cancer.

I have first hand experiene of this. A long time amateur club rider doing around 12 hrs week of training/road racing well into my 50's - I was the first ever male in my family to contract prostrate cancer. When I was diagnosed several others in my club got tested and the results were shocking.

I highly recommend any serious amateur rider over 50 to immediately get a PSA test, and follow up every 6 to 12 months. Don't ever be fooled by bike-industry spin!

so lots of elevated levels of PSA, but any actual cancer diagnosis? Any treatment, or just committed to a future regime of monitoring, and all the worry that comes with that?

Unless you or your clubmates, were diagnosed with prostate cancer (not just high PSA), succesfully treated and now in remission, it seems there was no actual benefit of the testing at all. Just the worry from the shocking results. 

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wtjs replied to wycombewheeler | 2 months ago
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Unless you or your clubmates, were diagnosed with prostate cancer (not just high PSA), succesfully treated and now in remission, it seems there was no actual benefit of the testing at all

Agreed, but your suggested end-point incites the distortion of all the 'my life was saved by my PSA test and surgery and/or drug/radiotherapy treatment, you should all get tested' stories. It's pretty easy to get a diagnosis of prostate cancer if you're old enough and they take enough biopsies through your rectum or perineum, and they're zealots for cancer. At my age, one statistic (don't know how reliable) is that 50% of men will have 'foci' (small bits) of cancer. What you really need are death/ age data and what they died of- and that takes large studies and lots of time. This is the basis of the oft-quoted distinction of whether you 'died with, or of, prostate cancer'. Of course, my strategy of avoiding PSA depends on my luck of being without a family history of prostate cancer and happening to be non-black- other risk factors may be known to experts.

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Cycloid | 2 months ago
1 like

Always be suspicious of claims that quote big % numbers like this.

According to the blurb 1.0% of men get prostate cancer, it goes down by 35%, so it becomes 0.65%, going from a small chance to a slightly smaller chance. Probably still worth having in this case.

Politicians do the same trick. Always be suspicious when they use any figures, whether relative or absolute. "We have allocated £X Billion to this good cause". Means it was £X+1 Billion last year

Cynical or what?

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Rendel Harris replied to Cycloid | 2 months ago
3 likes

Cycloid wrote:

According to the blurb 1.0% of men get prostate cancer, it goes down by 35%, so it becomes 0.65%, going from a small chance to a slightly smaller chance.

That's one way of looking at it and it does sound negligible. Looking at it another way though, a person who gets the requisite exercise lengthens their odds of being one of the unlucky ones from 100/1 to 135/1, which is quite a substantial boost of your chances.

Having said that both of the people to whom I'm close who have had prostate cancer (both now fully recovered, thankfully) are amongst the fittest chaps for their age I know, one of them being a keen runner and the other a keen cyclist, so I guess sometimes that bullet's just got your name on it.

 

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CarlosFerreiro replied to Cycloid | 2 months ago
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Cycloid wrote:

Always be suspicious of claims that quote big % numbers like this.

According to the blurb 1.0% of men get prostate cancer, it goes down by 35%, so it becomes 0.65%, going from a small chance to a slightly smaller chance. Probably still worth having in this case.

Politicians do the same trick. Always be suspicious when they use any figures, whether relative or absolute. "We have allocated £X Billion to this good cause". Means it was £X+1 Billion last year

Cynical or what?

Always good to look at what any stats presented actually mean, but the BMJ study below came back with similar reductions for general cardiovascular, cancer and even overall death figures, so there does look to be something going on. And something more specific to what folk do when they are cycling than to what they do for other things.

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OnYerBike | 2 months ago
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I will try to read the full study when I get a moment, but what strikes me from this report is that it doesn't say good cardiorespiratory fitness reduces the risk of cancer, it says increasing cardiorespiratory fitness reduces the risk of cancer. 

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quiff replied to OnYerBike | 2 months ago
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And it seems to say increasing it by 3% a year over a 7 year reference period.

I can only imagine getting 3% fitter for every one of the last 7 years... 

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hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
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That sounds like a big benefit to me. I wonder how many news outlets are going to feature this?

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CarlosFerreiro replied to hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
5 likes

There was a pretty strong study on active travel effects in the BMJ 7 years ago that doesn't seem to have got much public traction... Those come out at about 45% reductions.

Conclusions 
Cycle commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD, cancer, and all cause mortality. Walking commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD independent of major measured confounding factors. Initiatives to encourage and support active commuting could reduce risk of death and the burden of important chronic conditions.

https://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1456

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wtjs replied to CarlosFerreiro | 2 months ago
3 likes

There was a pretty strong study on active travel effects in the BMJ 7 years ago

But that doesn't cut much ice for a government and police force that thinks motorists have a right to have no excuse to say they believe that it's cyclists who cause delays, traffic jams and pollution

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Mr Hoopdriver replied to wtjs | 2 months ago
4 likes

It's a bit like smoking, we know it's bad for you but people still do it.

If a study came out and said sitting in a car for an hour a day increases your risk of prostate cancer, how many people do you think would give up driving and use a bike instead.

I went for a PSA test a couple of years ago and was advised not to cycle for a week before the test as cycling increases the risk of a false positive apparently.  It broke my 5.5 year run of daily rides.

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Kapelmuur replied to Mr Hoopdriver | 2 months ago
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Interesting, I wasn't given that advice before my PSA test and I'm now hoping that  pre test rides account for my above average score.

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thax1 replied to Kapelmuur | 2 months ago
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As it was described to me by a ride buddy, who also happened to be a former prostate specialist, cycling can give a raised PSA score - but this was a false-flag. He was interested to establish ones base level, then only be concerned about a sudden rise in this number at some future test.

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efail replied to Mr Hoopdriver | 2 months ago
2 likes

I had a PSA in the summer. I had done a 60km ride just before. I got a high result,  but before I spoke to the doctor,  I had been on the NHS site to read up about it. There was a list of things to not do. First was ejaculate...and  second was vigorous exercise. Doctor sent me for a second test. I asked the nurse about it, and she was surprised. She didn't know about the list. Still got a high ish score. Get tested lads!

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CarlosFerreiro replied to Mr Hoopdriver | 2 months ago
1 like

Mr Hoopdriver wrote:

It's a bit like smoking, we know it's bad for you but people still do it.
If a study came out and said sitting in a car for an hour a day increases your risk of prostate cancer, how many people do you think would give up driving and use a bike instead.

Yup, imagine a BMJ study for a treatment that reduced CVD and cancer deaths by 45% and it turned out it wasn't being made available to everybody.....

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CarlosFerreiro replied to wtjs | 2 months ago
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wtjs wrote:

There was a pretty strong study on active travel effects in the BMJ 7 years ago

But that doesn't cut much ice for a government and police force that thinks motorists have a right to have no excuse to say they believe that it's cyclists who cause delays, traffic jams and pollution

Ah, the surface has plenty of grandstanders, but more quietly government policy on all kinds of things have implicit actions set for more actively/active travel changes and funding at much higher levels than in the past (except until the recent changes in England  2 ) even when other budgets are being reduced - and at the root that's because it's accepted that whatever populist angles you (public pronoucer) want to present, there are huge cost/benefit ratios for anything that gets the population as a whole just a little bit more active and a little bit less in need of NHS budget...

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Cycloid replied to CarlosFerreiro | 2 months ago
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Quote - Conclusions 
Cycle commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD, cancer, and all cause mortality.

Cycle commuting is associated with a higher risk of mortality.

If you do the same journey on the bike and in a car (eg a commute) the probability of getting killed or seriously injured is 25-45 times higher (depending on which statistics you believe) on the bike.

Perhaps we need a meta analysis to look at the big picture. You only get the long term benefits if you survive the commute. Maybe there is an optimum length of commute that gives the benefits without too much exposure to risk, thus maximising longevity.

Any one fancy a PhD?

 

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OnYerBike replied to Cycloid | 2 months ago
3 likes

It's probably not the full PhD thesis you would like, but Cycling UK have a useful page that considers both the health benefits and risks from cycling, including references to studies where available:

https://www.cyclinguk.org/briefing/case-cycling-health 

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Cycloid replied to OnYerBike | 2 months ago
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I've just been there to check things out before I made my post!

Thanks - It's a useful source of information.

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quiff replied to Cycloid | 2 months ago
1 like

Cycloid wrote:

Cycle commuting is associated with a higher risk of mortality.

If you do the same journey on the bike and in a car (eg a commute) the probability of getting killed or seriously injured is 25-45 times higher (depending on which statistics you believe) on the bike.

You only get the long term benefits if you survive the commute. Maybe there is an optimum length of commute that gives the benefits without too much exposure to risk, thus maximising longevity.

Or an optimum mode of commute. I imagine e.g. commutes on segregated paths don't have massive KSI figures. 

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cyclisto replied to quiff | 2 months ago
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Exactly, I try using segregated paths and somehow low motor traffic to keep away from exhaust fumes. When a 20 ton diesel truck starts off a traffic light with its exhaust in your face as you try to catch your breath, isn't very healthy.

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Rendel Harris replied to Cycloid | 2 months ago
6 likes

Cycloid wrote:

Cycle commuting is associated with a higher risk of mortality.

It's not actually, it's associated with a higher risk of mortality from accidents but that is more than outweighed by the health benefits, all large-scale studies have found that all-cause mortality is lower than average in regular commuter cyclists.

 

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quiff replied to Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
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If you re-read Cycloid's post, I think that's exactly the point they were making - KSI risks on any given ride versus long term health benefits. 

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