People with cancer should do yoga to stop the disease spreading or returning, a new study indicates.

Doing yoga twice a week is associated with reduce inflammation – a key factor that triggers cancer to grow, latest evidence shows.

Researchers are now urging healthcare professionals to recommend yoga as a treatment option to people living with cancer.

Previous studies have discovered that older people with cancer are 18% less likely to die if they stay active.

More than 500 cancer survivors took part in the experiment, with half of the participants doing two 75-minute yoga sessions twice a week. Each participant had a blood test before and after the four-week study.

Study author Karen Mustian, from the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York, said: “The basic take-home story is that inflammatory chemicals were lowered by the yoga.

“In the last 20 years, we’ve moved beyond asking the question, should we be encouraging things like traditional exercise yoga, tai chi for patients? The answer is yes.”

She added: “Now, the question is exactly what should we do? I think if you come from the health and fitness industry you think it should become a lifestyle, but from a medical perspective, you want to know what is the least amount of exercise that can be done which is effective.”

The authors noted: “Our data suggest that yoga significantly reduces inflammation among cancer survivors.

“Clinicians should consider prescribing yoga for survivors experiencing inflammation, which may lead to a high chronic toxicity burden and increased risk of progression, recurrence, and second cancers.”

Melissa Hudson, a cancer survival expert, said: “Tai chi or yoga is an easy way to reintegrate back into physical activity if you’re very intimidated about it.

“I do think more and more folks are aware that we have to begin to get these messages earlier on – that they can be active and tolerate physical activity.”

She concluded: “I think that it’s a message that oncologists need to be telling their patients that it is important for you to be as active as you can withstand, based on your current symptoms.”

The study findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago.

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