Can Lack of Sleep Affect the Cancer Reducing Benefits of Exercise?

If you want to lower your risk for cancer, you better start having your daily exercise. However, make sure that you don’t compromise the number of hours that you need to sleep. Otherwise, you are just wasting the benefits that you have reaped from your physical endeavor.

In a study conducted recently by DR. James Mc Clain from the National Canter Institute, it was shown that increased physical activity lowers the risk for cancer among women. Moreover, the study also showed that inadequate sleep adversely affects the body functions that exercise improves. Based on the results of the study, inadequate sleep impairs the hormonal, immune, and metabolic functions of the body but there is inconclusive evidence which shows that sleep affects the risk for cancer in general.

The said study which was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s seventh annual conference involved 5,968 women. The study, which lasted for almost ten years, investigated on the subjects’ levels of physical activity and sleep in relation to the development of cancer. During the investigation, 604 of the subjects developed cancer. According to Mc Clain, those who had high levels of physical activity levels had an estimated 20 percent reduction in cancer risk as compared to those who had lower levels and frequency of exercise.

In addition to the link between cancer risk and exercise, the study showed that young subjects (under the age of 65) who had high levels of physical activity but slept for less than seven hours every night had most of their exercise benefits negated. Their supposed lower risk for cancer was canceled by inadequate hours of sleep. According to Mc Clain, although the cancer risk for active women with less sleep was still lower than those who had less physical activity, such proved to be greater than those who had enough sleep.

As such, the study concludes that sleep duration can greatly alter the established relationship between exercise and cancer risk among adult women who had high levels of physical activity. McClain further speculates that if the same study is conducted among male subjects, the results would have been the same. In contrast, there was no significant relationship found between cancer risk and sleep duration among women who were aged 65 and above, as well as younger women who had low levels of physical activity.

According to Dr. David Rapoport of the Sleep Medicine Program at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, there are many health problems that are linked with inadequate hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation promotes glucose intolerance and hormone imbalances that may result to obesity and diabetes. In addition to that, inadequate sleep also increases the risk for a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases. As such, Rapoport notes that although it is still unclear whether inadequate hours can affect the risk for cancer, such is quite probable.

Rapoport speculates that the increase in the risk for cancer may be due to the reduced immunity that is caused by lack of sleep. However, he also pointed out that the underlying condition that induced the lack of sleep might be the real risk factor. Such may be anxiety, sleep apnea, insomnia, or other illnesses. He further recommends that adult women should find the right balance between sleep and exercise instead of sacrificing one for the benefit of getting the other.


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