Activity improves survival in lymphoma patients

Volume 7, Issue 1, 2018

Summary

Physical activity decreases the risk of death from all causes and specifically from lymphoma.

Priyanka A. Pophali, M.B.B.S.

Priyanka A. Pophali, M.B.B.S.

An observational study of patients with cancer by researchers at Mayo Clinic has found that increasing physical activity decreased the risk of death from all causes and also decreased the risk of death specifically from lymphoma.

"As physicians, we recommend physical activity for all cancer survivors to improve overall quality of life," said Priyanka A. Pophali, M.B.B.S., a hematologist at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota. "But we did not know if physical activity would have an impact on survival in lymphoma patients."

Dr. Pophali and her colleagues wanted to assess how physical activity affected survival in all subtypes of lymphoma patients both before and after diagnosis with lymphoma. Specifically, they wanted to know if changing the level of a lymphoma patient's physical activity after diagnosis could affect survival.

In order to answer these questions, researchers studied a cohort of 4,087 lymphoma patients enrolled prospectively (within nine months of diagnosis) at Mayo Clinic between 2002 and 2012. At enrollment, participants completed questionnaires about their usual physical activity before their lymphoma diagnosis. The researchers regularly contacted patients to collect information about exposures and outcomes and also contacted the patients for a three-year follow-up.

The information was used to calculate a Godin Leisure Score Index, a physical activity score that is a validated tool for measuring physical activity in oncology patients. Patients were also asked about their perception of any change in their level of physical activity (increase, decrease or no change) at three years after their diagnosis compared with baseline. Researchers then evaluated the association of physical activity with overall survival and lymphoma-specific survival.

The researchers found that patients who had a higher level of usual adult physical activity prior to a lymphoma diagnosis had significantly better overall survival and lymphoma-specific survival compared with those who were less physically active. The researchers also found that patients who increased their level of physical activity after their lymphoma diagnosis (at three-year follow-up) had significantly better overall survival and lymphoma-specific survival compared with those who were less physically active.

Patients who perceived that their level of physical activity had decreased at three years after a lymphoma diagnosis had worse overall survival and lymphoma-specific survival compared with those who report no change, the researchers found.

"Our findings show that physical activity can have a positive impact on survival in lymphoma patients," Dr. Pophali said. "Importantly, our study shows a survival benefit in patients who increase their level of physical activity. Therefore, since physical activity behaviors can be modified, physicians should counsel patients and survivors on the importance of physical activity and encourage them to maintain and, if possible, increase their level of physical activity."