Being lightly active may help after colorectal cancer

Doing light-intensity physical activity was associated with better quality of life and less fatigue in colorectal cancer survivors two years post-treatment

16 July 2020

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, and 1,800,977 cases were diagnosed in 2018. Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common and distressing side-effects in cancer survivors; but new research conducted at Maastricht University, led by Professor Matty Weijenberg and funded by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) Network, reveals that light exercise may help.

In this research, data was used from the EnCoRe study – an ongoing long-term study initiated in 2012 in which people with colorectal cancer are followed for years. Data from 325 people who had completed colorectal cancer treatment were looked at.

Dr Eline van Roekel, one of the researchers at the Department of Epidemiology at Maastricht University and a WCRF Academy Fellow said: “More and more research show that physical activity can help improve the quality of life after cancer. In our study, for the first time we looked at changes in the same individuals over time. More knowledge of the possible effects of light-intensive physical activity on health and quality of life can contribute to tailor-made physical activity programs and advice for a better life after colorectal cancer.”

 “There is an increasing need for reliable advice on nutrition and lifestyle after cancer. Cancer does not stop when the treatment is over; people often experience complaints including fatigue long afterwards. One of the tasks of the World Cancer Research Fund Network is to help people affected by cancer, their loved ones and healthcare professionals with reliable information about nutrition and lifestyle. That is why we will soon be launching new information materials about exercise and cancer.” – Nadia Ameyah, director of Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds

While these results are encouraging, further studies using accelerometer data instead of questionnaires are necessary to inform the development of targeted lifestyle interventions to improve the health and well-being of colorectal cancer survivors.

Light-intensive physical activity includes walking at a leisurely pace, household tasks such as washing dishes, ironing and dusting. The intensity depends partly on the fitness of the person.

> Find out more about this research project