Physical Activity Helps Lymphoma Patients Live Longer

Submitted by onc_editor on Thu, 12/21/2017 - 15:10

By Megan Brooks

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For lymphoma patients, increasing physical activity lowers the risk of death from any cause and from lymphoma, according to results of an observational study.

The positive impact of being physically active on lymphoma-specific survival hasn't been shown before, Dr. Priyanka Pophali, hematologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, noted in a phone interview with Reuters Health. “We tell patients to exercise, but we did not know if physical activity would have an impact on survival in lymphoma patients,” she explained.

To investigate, the Mayo Clinic team prospectively enrolled 4,087 lymphoma patients within nine months of diagnosis. They collected information on patients' usual physical activity before lymphoma diagnosis and followed up with them three years later to calculate a Godin Leisure Score Index (LSI), a physical activity score that has been validated for measuring such activity in cancer patients.

Of the 4,087 lymphoma patients, 3,129 had baseline physical activity data (3,060 evaluable for LSI), and 1,845 (1,395 evaluable for LSI) had physical activity data at three years. By a median follow-up of 84 months from diagnosis, 806 patients had died.

Patients reporting a higher level of usual adult physical activity before a lymphoma diagnosis had significantly better overall and lymphoma-specific survival relative to those who were less physically active (hazard ratio, 0.95, for both survival rates).

In addition, patients who increased their level of physical activity after their lymphoma diagnosis (at three-year follow-up) had significantly better overall survival (HR, 0.84) and lymphoma-specific (HR, 0.74) survival compared to their less physically active peers.

Patients who reported a dropoff in activity level three years after diagnosis had worse overall survival and lymphoma-specific survival compared to those who did not report a change.

Dr. Pophali told Reuters Health that the team didn't specifically look at a threshold for physical activity. They looked at the data based on the recommendation that cancer survivors get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week and, also, two broad categories of active versus inactive “and found that patients who are active do better,” she noted.

Dr. Pophali presented the study December 11 at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting.

“It is important to encourage physical activity in lymphoma patients, even those who are finished with their treatment and are still being monitored on a regular basis,” Dr. Pophali told Reuters Health. “Motivating them to remain physically active is the message that we want to send out.”

Study coauthor Dr. Carrie Thompson said she was “very encouraged by the data and a little bit surprised. We know that exercise improves survival in the general population because of cardiovascular health, and there has been a link between exercise and improved survival in other cancers, such as breast cancer, but it's never been shown in lymphoma that physical activity improves survival,” Dr. Thompson explained in a phone interview.

“Patients are very anxious when treatment ends and want to know what they can do, and previously there wasn't anything we could tell patients that they had under their control. Physical activity is something under a patient's control, and giving that control back after something that feels very overwhelming and out of control is really important,” said Dr. Thompson.


American Society of Hematology 2017.

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