Fit middle-aged men appear less likely to develop lung and colorectal cancer in later life than their out-of-shape peers. And if they do develop cancer, they are more likely to beat it, a new study suggests. The report was published online in JAMA Oncology.

For the study, Susan Lakoski, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington, and colleagues used information from two sources: fitness assessments conducted between 1971 and 2009 when the men averaged 49 years, and Medicare data (on men from age 65 on) from 1999 to 2009.

Over an average of 6.5 years of follow-up, 1,310 of 13,949 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, 200 with lung cancer, and 181 men with colorectal cancer.

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The fittest men had a 55 percent lower risk of lung cancer and a 44 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer, compared with unfit men, the researchers found.

RELATED: Men’s Cardiovascular Fitness in Middle Age Reduces Risk of Developing, Dying from Lung, Colorectal Cancer

They also had a 32 percent lower risk of dying if they did develop lung, colorectal, or prostate cancer.

“Men who are physically fit are expected to have lower levels of [cancer-related] sex hormones, enhanced immunity, and lower inflammation,” Lakoski told HealthDay.

Lakoski stressed that this study shows an association between fitness and protection from cancer, not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship.


  1. Lakoski, Susan G., MD, et al. “Midlife Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Incident Cancer, and Survival After Cancer in Men: The Cooper Center Longitudinal Study.” JAMA Oncology. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.0226. [epub ahead of print]. March 26, 2015.