Men who exercise regularly could cut their risk of prostate cancer in half, a new study has found.
For the study, a team funded by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and Cancer Research UK used a robust method of measuring physical activity among 79,148 men with prostate cancer and 61,106 without.
The scientists looked at variations in each person's DNA sequence which relates to how active they are, rather than just relying on what the participants said about their lifestyles.
The study, which mainly involved men over the age of 50, found those that were the most active had a 51 per cent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared with those who were the least active.
The most active men were expected to meet NHS guidelines which recommends around two and a half hours' exercise weekly, or 20 minutes a day.
Dr Sarah Lewis, senior lecturer in genetic epidemiology at Bristol Medical School and lead author of the research, said: “Our findings suggest that the more active you are, the better.
"We would recommend that men are as physically active as they can be.
“Our evidence suggests being active will be beneficial in terms of their prostate cancer risk. But it doesn't have to be vigorous activity or playing team sports, you just have to move about.
"Being active could be things such as gardening, walking or other activities that you can build into your daily routine."
Lewis said that although the study looked at particular genes relating to exercise, the effect of the genes themselves on prostate cancer risk was small.
This suggests that it is being physically active that is leading to the huge benefits seen in reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
"This study is the largest-ever of its kind which uses a relatively new method that complements current observational research to discover what causes prostate cancer,” she added.
“It suggests that there could be a larger effect of physical activity on prostate cancer than previously thought, so will hopefully encourage men to be more active.”
In the UK, around one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.
The WCRF said this risk could drop to one in 12 for men who are the most physically active.
Our study on diet and lifestyle factors and prostate cancer is now published in the IJE. Headline: being physically active could reduce risk by 50% https://t.co/H2bS71zq8y— Sarah Lewis (@sjlewis86126653)December 5, 2019
Dr Anna Diaz Font, head of research funding at the WCRF, called the results of the study "striking".
“Up till now, there has only been limited evidence of an effect of physical activity on prostate cancer,” Font said.
"This new study looked at the effect of 22 risk factors on prostate cancer, but the results for physical activity were the most striking.
“This will pave the way for even more research, where similar methods could be applied to other lifestyle factors, to help identify ways men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer.”
According to the NHS, prostate cancer mostly affects men over the age of 50 and risk factors include having a family history of the disease.
Symptoms of the disease include an increased need to urinate, straining while you urinate and a feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied.
The study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.