Exercise Shrinks Cancer Mortality Rate for Patients with Heart Disease

Physically fit patients with coronary artery disease were nearly half as likely to die from cancer.

Physical activity may significantly reduce the risk of cancer mortality among patients with established heart disease, according to findings presented at EuroEcho-Imaging 2017.

“There is evidence that higher levels of physical activity are associated with lower risk of several cancers,” said lead author Dr Jesus Peteiro. “However, this association comes mainly from observational studies in which people self-report their physical activity.”

In the study, researchers examined the link between exercise and cancer mortality. Included in the study were 12,615 patients with coronary artery disease who were referred for exercise echocardiography, which was conducted on a treadmill. The metabolic equivalents (METs) were calculated for each patient.

The authors characterized good functional capacity as 10 METs or more. Ten METs is equal to walking 12 minutes at maximal capacity on a treadmill, according to the authors. Patients were placed into groups based on whether they had good functional capacity or not.

The authors found that 669 patients died from cancer during the average follow-up of 4.7 years.

Overall, lower functional capacity was linked to a higher risk of cancer mortality. Cancer-associated mortality was nearly 50% lower in patients with good functional capacity compared with patients without good functional capacity, according to the study.

Other factors were observed to increase the cancer mortality risk. The authors discovered that older age increased the risk 1.05 times, male gender increased the risk 2.15 times, and smoking status was observed to increase the risk of cancer mortality 1.52 times, according to the study.

However, measurements during exercise echocardiography, which assesses the severity of coronary artery disease, were not linked to an increase in cancer-related mortality.

“The ‘exercise part’ of an exercise echocardiography study predicts cancer-related death in patients referred for this test,” Dr Peteiro said. “Fit patients, as demonstrated by exercise testing, have less chance of death due to cancer. These patients can be reassured that their mortality rate is lower than that of patients with lower functional capacity, not only due to a lower rate of cardiac-related mortality, but also due to a lower rate of cancer-related death.”

These findings suggest that exercise may provide additional benefits for patients with coronary artery disease, including a lower risk of cancer mortality.

“We knew from previous studies that being fit is a good idea for patients with coronary artery disease because of the beneficial cardiovascular effects,” Dr Peteiro said. “Now we can see that this is also good for decreasing the risk of cancer-related death.”