Exercise is medicine for cancer: The evolution and role of exercise oncology

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Sport Health


Sports Medicine Australia


School of Medical and Health Sciences




Hart, N., & Newton, R. (2018). Exercise is medicine for cancer: The evolution and role of exercise oncology. Sport Health, 32(2), 6-11. Available here.


Cancer represents the second largest cause of death worldwide. In Australia, 1 in every 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, with the 5-year relative survival rate from cancer (overall),rising from 48% to 68% since 1985, principally due to improvements in screening, diagnosis, treatment and medical management. Coincidentally, this same period (1984-1986) signifies the origin of exercise oncology in the literature, producing the first research papers investigating physical activity or exercise to rehabilitate cancer patients and survivors. In the subsequent two decades, only ~26 further studies were reported, with broad-ranging and consistently positive results leading to the rapid ascension of exercise medicine in the prevention and management of cancer in the past decade, while emerging as a potential therapeutic agent to delay disease progression and increase overall survival in recent years. Accordingly, exercise is a promising and provocative therapy in oncology, inherently aligned with the exercise medicine movement, showing excellent promise to meet patients’ needs; particularly due to the ever-expanding population of cancer patients and survivors in Australia, and globally.

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