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Introduction: Both baseline cardiorespiratory fitness and adiposity predict the risk of cancer mortality. However, the effects of changes in these two factors over time have not been evaluated thoroughly. The aim of this study was to examine the independent and joint associations of changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition on cancer mortality.

Methods: The cohort consisted of 13,930 men (initially cancer-free) with two or more medical examinations from 1974 to 2002. Cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed by a maximal treadmill exercise test, and body composition was expressed by body mass index (BMI) and percent body fat. Changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition between the baseline and the last examination were classified into loss, stable, and gain groups.

Results: There were 386 deaths from cancer during an average of 12.5 yr of follow-up. After adjusting for possible confounders and BMI, change hazard ratios (95% confidence intervals) of cancer mortality were 0.74 (0.57-0.96) for stable fitness and 0.74 (0.56-0.98) for fitness gain. Inverse dose-response relationships were observed between changes in maximal METs and cancer mortality (P for linear trend = 0.05). Neither BMI change nor percent body fat change was associated with cancer mortality after adjusting for possible confounders and maximal METs change. In the joint analyses, men who became less fit had a higher risk of cancer mortality (P for linear trend = 0.03) compared with those who became more fit, regardless of BMI change levels.

Conclusions: Being unfit or losing cardiorespiratory fitness over time was found to predict cancer mortality in men. Improving or maintaining adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness appears to be important for decreasing cancer mortality in men.

(C) 2014 American College of Sports Medicine