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Physical activity could help prevent ovarian cancer

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Engaging in physical activities, including exercise as a leisure activity, could help protect women against ovarian cancer, a collaborative study by Curtin University has found.

Researchers from Curtin’s School of Public Health undertook a study of 1000 women in Guangzhou in Southern China.

Researcher Professor Colin Binns from Curtin said results from 500 ovarian cancer patients and 500 control subjects drawn from other inpatient areas of four hospitals showed higher rates of physical activity among the latter group.

“The research showed an inverse relationship between ovarian cancer risk and habitual physical activity and, as such, suggests leisure exercise and moderate activities should be encouraged as being of possible benefit in preventing ovarian cancer,” Professor Binns said.

“The study recorded 28.2 per cent of the control subjects as engaging in 23 or more metabolic equivalent tasks (MET) hours of physical activity (including work and leisure exercise) each week in the preceding five years, compared to only 16 per cent among the ovarian cancer patients.

“The ovarian cancer risk for those undertaking 23 or more MET-hours of physical activity each week was calculated to be half of those taking part in only 12 or fewer MET-hours.”

The women involved in the study were aged less than 75 years but had a mean age of 59 years.

Both patients and controls were similar in terms of urban and rural locations, employment level, education status and predisposition towards smoking, although the patients had higher mean body mass index and less oral contraceptive use.

“Given the age of the women involved, it was not expected that either the cancer patients or controls would be engaging in large amounts of strenuous sports exercise,” Professor Binns said.

“But 14.4 per cent of the controls were recorded as undertaking at least some strenuous sports, compared to 9.4 per cent of the ovarian cancer patients.

“The cancer patients were required to have been diagnosed within the past 12 months, meaning the physical activity recorded reflected the period when the subjects were presumably healthy.”

The research team consisted of Professor Binns, lead researcher Professor Andy Lee, Dada Su and Maria Pasalich from Curtin, and Associate Professor Wong Yut Lin from the University of Malaya.

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