Physical Activity, Prevention and Cancer

Division of Physical Activity, Prevention and Cancer

Prof. Dr. Karen Steindorf

Picture: Medienzentrum der Universität Heidelberg

The Division of Physical Activity, Prevention and Cancer (Head: Prof. Dr. Karen Steindorf) investigates the protective effects of physical activity (PA) and related concepts such as fitness and muscle strength on cancer risk (primary prevention), biomarkers, and molecular mechanisms, as well as effects on oncologic treatment and cancer prognosis (tertiary prevention). The goal of the interdisciplinary team is to increase scientific and public knowledge about the relevance of PA/exercise in reducing cancer burden. Furthermore, high-quality studies for cancer patients contribute to establish a safe, evidence-based and (individually) optimized training program for cancer patients. The expectation is that PA/exercise improves quality of life in cancer patients, reduces risk of recurrence and cancer mortality and reduces therapy- and cancer-related side effects. Based on this established knowledge, specifically patients in our studies but also other patients treated at the National Center for Tumor Diseases can be offered a wide range of supervised and individually-tailored training sessions. For most parts of the research program, there is an intense and well-established cooperation with the NCT working group “Onkologische Sport- und Bewegungstherapie lead by Dr. Joachim Wiskemann within the NCT Division of Medical Oncology (Head: Prof. Dr. Dirk Jäger).

A physically active lifestyle can reduce the risk for several cancer types. Numerous epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that regular exercise is associated with decreased risk of cancer of the colon, postmenopausal breast, and endometrium. Further suggestive evidence exists for associations for lung, pancreatic, premenopausal breast, and prostate cancer. Risk reductions are considered to range between 20 to 30% and it has been estimated that 14% of all cancer cases in men and 16.0% in women can be attributed to physical inactivity in Europe.
In addition, it becomes increasingly known that exercise in cancer patients and survivors improves quality of life, reduces therapy- and cancer-related side effects, and might reduce the risk of recurrence and cancer mortality, so that exercise is more and more seen as an effective supportive cancer therapy.


Prof. Dr. Karen Steindorf
Physical Activity, Prevention and Cancer (G210)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
und Nationales Centrum für Tumorerkrankungen (NCT)
Im Neuenheimer Feld 460
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 42-2351

Selected Publications

  • Steindorf K, Schmidt ME, Klassen O, Ulrich CM, Oelmann J, Habermann N, Beckhove P, Owen R, Debus J, Wiskemann J, Potthoff K (2014): Randomized Controlled Trial of Resistance Training in Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Adjuvant Radiotherapy: Results on Cancer-related Fatigue and Quality of Life. Annals of Oncology, 25, 2237-43.
  • Scharhag-Rosenberger F, Klassen O, Schmidt ME, Kühl R, Schommer K, Ulrich CM, Wiskemann J, Steindorf K (2015): : Exercise intensity classification in breast cancer patients: A cross-sectional study with practical implications for training prescription. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 9, 612-619.
  • Schmidt ME, Semik J, Habermann N, Wiskemann J, Ulrich CM, Steindorf K (2016): Cancer-related fatigue shows a stable association with diurnal cortisol dysregulation in breast cancer patients. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 52, 98-105.
  • Schmidt ME, Meynköhn A, Habermann N, Wiskemann J, Oelmann J, Hof H, Wessels S, Klassen O, Debus J, Potthoff K, Steindorf K, Ulrich CM (2016): Resistance exercise and inflammation in breast cancer patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy: Mediation analysis from a randomized controlled intervention trial. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, 94, 329-37.
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