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Breast and bowel cancer are the first and fourth most common cancers in the UK.
Both are affected by shared risk factors that can be controlled by engaging in healthy activities.
These cancers are more common in people who are overweight and physically inactive.
Cancer Research UK advises that people engage in regular light activity and avoid sitting down for long periods of time.
There are multiple mechanisms by which exercise reduces your risk of different types of cancer.
The main mechanism is body weight, with being overweight listed as a risk factor for breast and bowel cancer, along with pancreatic, oesophageal and gallbladder cancers.
These last three types of cancer are among the most difficult to treat.
Regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight which reduces this avenue of risk.
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There are also mechanisms specific to some types of cancer.
It is speculated that exercise reduces breast cancer rates by changing the amounts of oestrogen and insulin hormones in the blood.
These hormones can induce cell division in some tissues, including the breasts.
Excess cell division increases the risk of a cancerous mutation occurring.
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Exercise also improves immune activity.
The immune system is able to detect some types of cancer early and destroy them before they can spread.
This is the case for breast cancer.
In some cases the immune system is not able to fully destroy a cancer but can limit its spread, slowing the speed at which a tumour grows.
With bowel cancer exercise has a positive effect not found for other cancer risk types.
Exercise stimulates the bowels to pass food through them faster.
This limits the exposure of harmful chemicals in food that could potentially cause cancer.
One study presented at the physiological society’s annual conference found women who participated in four hours of exercise a week had a 33 percent lower risk of colon cancer.
There are some types of cancer that are not affected by exercise.
Studies have not been able to conclusively link lung cancer and exercise, with smoking playing a much larger role on the formation of lung cancer.
Other cancers have risk factors specific to them depending on the location of the organ in your body and what role it plays.
The most common types share risk factors in terms of diet, exercise and lifestyle but this shouldn’t be taken to mean that they can be prevented from happening or that people who live healthy lives won’t get cancer.
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