Climbing & Prevention

What does Climbing have to do with Cancer?

Did you know that climbing has tremendous potential health benefits? Not only does climbing require a combination of core, upper and lower body strength, it requires endurance, balance and flexibility. And it is infinitely easier to climb if you have an ideal body weight.

The will to rise above the constant downward pull of gravity is increasingly being found to be a part of a healthy lifestyle that may help you overcome two of the biggest threats to longevity, heart disease and cancer.

Wellness and Cancer Prevention

There is accumulating evidence that the diet we choose and the degree we exercise may be responsible for nearly 1/2 of all cancers in the United States!  That is an amazing fact that is both scary and reassuring.  Scary, because most people don’t know that diet and exercise play such a big role in cancer prevention.  If you ask people what is the best way to prevent heart disease, most people can tell you diet and exercise, but to find out those same factors can prevent the two leading causes of death in the US.  But also reassuring because by eating well, exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight, you can lower your chance of getting cancer!

Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer

There are 5 well documented risks for developing Renal Cell Kidney Cancer in multiple studies from around the world. They are very likely to increase your risk of kidney cancer: (1,2)

  • Smoking
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Obesity (accounts for 30-40% of new kidney cancer cases)
  • Male gender (males twice as likely as females)
  • Strong Family history (this accounts for only 2-4% of kidney cancers

There have been other risk factors that are associated with increased risk of kidney cancer in some studies, but not in others.  These are less certain risk factors but include:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Charred or Grilled Meats and preserved meats
  • NSAIDS (Such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen etc)
  • Acquired cystic renal disease (in patients on dialysis)
  • Eating few fruits and vegetables

Exercise and Prevention

Here are some results from a recent study finding in 1.4 million people, those who exercised in their free time had a significantly lower risk of getting 13 different kinds of cancer, including Kidney Cancer!  Therefore climbing and living a healthy lifestyle could literally save your life! (reference 3)

Moore et. al. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(6):816-825

Diet and Prevention

A recent meta-analysis showed that for every serving of vegetables a day, you can lower your risk of kidney cancer by about 10%.  That means that if you eat the recommended 5-7 servings, you can lower your risk by as much as 50-70%! (reference 4 below)

Cigarette smoking is a significant risk factor for developing kidney cancer.  A couple of the known carcinogens that are found in cigarettes and can mutate human DNA are N-nitro compounds (nitrosamines, nitroamides etc.) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs).  With a damaged blueprint for making new cells, when it is time for the cell to copy itself, it may make a copy that no longer follows normal cell rules and behaves badly.  This is one of the models for how cancer starts.  These ‘rogue’ copies, then grow all over their neighbors and start stealing the body’s resources.  Why would anyone smoke knowing they are filling their lungs and blood stream with these DNA damaging agents?

The good news is that smoking rates are declining in the US, the bad news is that kidney cancer rates are rising.  Why?  One possible explanation is that there is another environmental source of nitrosamines, nitroamides and heterocyclic amines: MEAT.

Grilled, preserved and charred meats are full of the carcinogenic compounds called nitroamines, nitroamides and HCAs.  In fact a hot dog has the same level of nitroamides as 4 cigarettes! Furthermore many studies, including a meta-anlysis demonstrate that people who eat more meat have a higher risk of kidney cancer (reference 5).

When you sum it all up, the answer is clear, eating well (fruits, whole grains and vegetables and little to no meat), exercising (climbing) and not smoking, you can lower your risk of kidney cancer by nearly 60-70%!

1. Chow, W., Dong, L., & Devesa, S. (2010). Epidemiology and risk factors for kidney cancer. Nature Reviews Urology, 7(5), 245–257.

2. Ljungberg, B., Campbell, S. C., Cho, H. Y., Jacqmin, D., Lee, J. E., Weikert, S., & Kiemeney, L. A. (2011). The epidemiology of renal cell carcinoma. European Urology, 60(4), 615–621.

3. Moore SC, Lee I-M, Weiderpass E, et al: Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity With Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults. JAMA Intern. Med. 2016; 176: 816–25. Available at:

4. Zhang S, Jia Z, Yan Z, et al: Consumption of fruits and vegetables and risk of renal cell carcinoma : a meta-analysis of observational studies. 2017; 8: 27892–27903

5. Zhang, S., Wang, Q., & He, J. (2015). Intake of red and processed meat and risk of renal cell carcinoma: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Oncotarget, 8(44), 77942–77956.