Elite French cyclists participating in the Tour de France over the past 60 years have a significantly lower rate of mortality than French men in the general population, according to the results of a new study.
In evaluating the overall mortality rates of French cyclists who rode in the prestigious event between 1947 and 2012, investigators found the cyclists had a 41% lower mortality rate than men in France and that this lower mortality rate was consistent over time, including periods of reported heavy performance-enhancing-drug use. The lower rate was significant for deaths resulting from cancer and cardiovascular causes, and while it wasn’t statistically significant for other causes of death, the mortality trends all favored the cyclists.
Presenting the results at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) 2013 Congress, senior investigator Dr Xavier Jouven (Paris Descartes University, France) said that among the cyclists who rode in the Tour de France from 1947 to 1951, a period accounting for more than 60% of the deaths in the analysis, the elite athletes lived six years longer than men in the general population.
Results consistent across the different race eras
Of the 786 French cyclists who rode in the tour since 1947, 208 have died. Of these, 59 cyclists died from cancer, mainly neoplasms of the digestive tract, lung, and prostate, a number that is 44% lower than what would be expected if the cyclists had the same mortality rate as the general male population. Similarly, deaths from cardiovascular causes were reported in 53 cyclists, a 33% lower rate than what would be expected based on estimates in the general male population.