Intended for healthcare professionals


Physical activity for cancer survivors

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 31 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:d7998
  1. Liam Bourke, lecturer in public health research1,
  2. Derek Rosario, consultant urological surgeon 2,
  3. Robert Copeland, principal research fellow3,
  4. Stephanie Taylor, professor of public health and primary care1
  1. 1Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 2AT, UK
  2. 2Academic Urology Unit, Department of Oncology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK S11 7FE.
  3. 3Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
  1. l.bourke{at}

Beneficial in the short term, but longer term outcomes are lacking

In 2008, more than 12 million people worldwide were diagnosed with cancer ( Because of improvements in early diagnosis and the introduction of more aggressive treatments over the past 20 years, cancer survivors are now living longer.1 However, treatment often leads to a range of undesirable and debilitating adverse effects.

In the linked meta-analysis (doi:10.1136/bmj.e70), Fong and colleagues assess the effects of physical activity after treatment for cancer on 48 separate health related outcomes.2 The potential for exercise interventions to benefit survivors of cancer is a burgeoning area of research, and systematic reviews and meta-analyses have reported that exercise can reduce fatigue and improve functional outcomes and health related quality of life.3 4 5 These reports have also called for larger trials that have a greater focus on study quality and adverse events and longer follow-up.

Fong and colleagues’ meta-analysis reviewed 34 randomised trials (of which 22 were dedicated breast cancer studies) that assessed the effects of aerobic exercise, and in some studies also …

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