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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cancer survivors in Canada are more likely to be obese and less likely to exercise than the rest of the population -- putting themselves at risk of having their cancers come back, researchers said on Monday.
The trends, likely to be seen in cancer survivors around the world, suggest patients need help and support in staying active and keeping the weight off, said Kerry Courneya of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, who led the study.
"It's a challenge for all of us to eat properly and exercise, and it may be especially challenging for cancer survivors who have been through difficult treatments and may have lingering health issues," Courneya said in a statement.
"But eating well and exercising are two of the best things we can do for our mental and physical health, even in trying times. Rest is rarely the best medicine for any health condition."
Courneya and colleagues analyzed data from a 2005 survey of more than 114,000 adults.
Fewer than 22 percent of former cancer patients described themselves as physically active. This compares with 25 percent of the general Canadian population, they reported in the journal Cancer.
They also found that 18 percent of cancer survivors were medically obese, compared to 15 percent of the general population, and 34 percent were overweight.
Many cancers are linked with obesity and a lack of exercise.
"These findings tell us that we need to look at ways to better support cancer survivors to become more active and to maintain a healthy body weight," Courneya said.
"We know that physical inactivity and obesity are risk factors for developing cancer. These are also risk factors for the recurrence of cancer. Lifestyle is just as important after diagnosis."
The researchers defined someone as physically active if they walked at least an hour a day or did the equivalent in swimming, cycling or some other activity. Inactive people walked or exercised less than 30 minutes a day.
Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Todd Eastham