Exercise May Improve the Body's Cancer-Fighting Abilities, Study Finds

Not only does regular exercise help in the prevention of some forms of cancer (and other life-threatening illnesses), but new research finds that it may also improve cancer outcomes in patients who exercise while battling cancer.

The research, published in a recent issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that exercise, which increases blood flow to the muscles, actually helped to reduce the size of tumors in prostate cancer patients.

While excessive blood flow to tumors may sound unhealthy, like that could be providing more nourishment for the tumor to grow, the researchers say that’s not the case.

“When a tumor lacks oxygen, it releases just about every growth factor you can think of, which often results in metastasis,” Kansas State University exercise physiologist Brad Behnke explained to Runner’s World Newswire in an email. “Simply speaking, the tumor says, ‘I can’t breathe here, so let’s pick up and move somewhere else in the body.’”

And what the researchers noted was that the more oxygen produced as a direct result of exercising, the more cancer-fighting agents the body delivered to the site of the tumor. “For example, exercisers respond better to radiation treatments,” Runners World reported. “Exercise increases blood flow by increasing blood pumping and pressure, and by decreasing blood vessel constriction.”

These findings support other research that noted how aerobic exercise impacted cancer cells. According to the study, exercise helped tissue return to its pre-tumor state, “or forestall development of a more aggressive and dangerous cancer,” explained Runners World.

Of course, exercise might not be on the top of the list for someone undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, but there are additional benefits as well. Cancer often leads to episodes of prolonged depression, and exercise can play a healthy role in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression in cancer patients.

Marco Monetti

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