A number of studies suggest that consistent exercise (or lack thereof) influences one's risk of developing various forms of cancer.1,2,3 In fact, the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer has estimated a 20 percent to 40 percent decrease in the risk of cancer for women who are the most physically active.4
A recent study5 examined the survival rate for women diagnosed with cancer, based upon how physically active they were after being diagnosed.The investigators found that women who exercised for the equivalent of three to five hours of regular-pace walking each week experienced almost 40 percent improvement in the risk of death over those who hardly exercised at all. Those who walked their three to five hours each week had a 50 percent relative risk of death from cancer, compared to an 80 percent relative risk of death for those who didn't.
This physical activity benefited women in all stages of cancer, and especially women with stage III cancer. The authors "suggest a possible hormonal mechanism for improved survival among women who are physically active," but freely admit that "few data exist to support this hypothesis."5
Even without a proven understanding of why exercise helps fight cancer, the studies continue to show that it does, both preventively and once a person is diagnosed. And if allowed to wax a bit philosophical, one might conclude that a certain level of exercise is required to maintain wellness - and that once wellness is introduced into the body, it will have an effect on both preventing disease and defeating it.
These studies give the chiropractic profession some serious running room in the wellness arena.
The recent study that evaluated the benefit of walking was not small in size or duration. It began with 121,700 female nurses in 1976, with information gathered every two years from 1984 through 2000. The investigators ultimately ended up with almost 3,000 breast cancer patients whose activity levels could be tracked before and after diagnosis.
And while this process may seem a daunting task, it does give us a road map of how we might go about demonstrating the benefits of continuous chiropractic care.
This kind of study would involve at least 3,000 DCs, each with a minimum of 50 patients who received very consistent chiropractic care. The study would need to track those patients for 20 years or more, with pre-established measurements of wellness (or lack thereof). These measurements would then need to be compared to risk factors for populations not generally considered regular chiropractic patients. (Needless to say, I'm no researcher, but you get the idea.)
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it?
But this is the kind of commitment our profession will have to make if we're going to lay claim to chiropractic creating wellness in our patients.
Knowing "it works" is not enough in today's health care marketplace. Patients are very willing to pay for proven care. They are looking for someone who will step up to the plate and provide the proof. We have spent 110 years preaching that chiropractic promotes wellness. It's time to seriously begin to prove it.
The model is being developed for us. It will require one of our chiropractic colleges to make the investment. It will require 2,000-plus DCs to make the commitment. The first step is always the hardest.
Who will take that first step?
- Giovannucci EL, Liu Y, Leitzmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. A prospective study of physical activity and incident and fatal prostate cancer. Arch Intern Med 2005;165:1005-1010. [Exercise slows prostate cancer progression.]
- Pan SY, Ugnat AM, Mao Y. Physical activity and the risk of ovarian cancer: a case-control study in Canada. International Journal of Cancer 2005. (EPub ahead of print: published online May 16, 2005.) [Regular moderate exercise may lower ovarian cancer risk.]
- Meyerhardt JA. The impact of physical activity on patients with stage III colon cancer: findings from Intergroup Trial CALGB 89803. Abstract 3534; reported on May 18, 2005 at the 2005 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting. [Moderate exercise reduces risk of colon cancer recurrence.]
- Bianchini F, Kaaks R, Vainio H. Weight control and physical activity in cancer prevention. Obes Rev 2002;3:5-8.
- Holmes MD, Chen WY, Feskanich D, Kroenke CH, Colditz GA. Physical activity and survival after breast cancer diagnosis. JAMA 2005;293:2479-2486.
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