The Benefits of Exercise on Reducing Cancer Risk Mystery Solved?

The benefits of exercise can’t be overstated—a regular fitness habit keeps us physically, mentally, and even emotionally healthy. It makes life more enjoyable, and of course, it can keep us living longer, too.

Research has also shown the benefits of exercise can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers. It may even be helpful in keeping cancer from coming back. But how that specifically occurs, has never really been clear. A new study may have changed that, though. 

Published in the recent issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, new data points to adrenalin levels produced by exercise as the key to thwarting malignant growth.

Researchers at Copenhagen University studied exercise habits on mice and its impact on different types of cancer. The mice were either given a running wheel in the cage or left without one. The mice in both groups were then infected with liver, lung, or skin cancer through various methods.

A month after the cancers were given to the mice, those who had access to the running wheels were fairing better than those who did not have the exercise. 

“Among the mice that exercised, only a third of those injected with diethylnitrosamine developed liver cancer. In comparison, three-quarters of the sedentary mice got the cancer. All those induced with skin and lung cancer contracted the diseases, but those who exercised had smaller tumors,” reports Quartz.

And that’s not all. The tumors in the active mice contained more of two types of cancer-killing cells, explains Quartz, “double the number of T-cells and five times the number of natural killer cells.” 

The mice were even manipulated so that they would stop producing T-cells, and among the mice who exercised, their tumors were still smaller. But when the natural killer cell production was stopped, both groups of mice had the same-sized tumors.

“Thus, natural killer cells were endowing the benefits and not T-cells,” reports Quartz.

The connection to adrenalin has to do with those natural killer cells. The researchers gave adrenalin to half of the exercise-free group of mice and the other half received a saline solution (placebo). While the saline group saw no difference in tumor growth, those with the adrenalin experienced reduced tumor growth—but not as much as the reduction in the mice who received the exercise wheels.

While more research is needed on the subject, it does underline the benefits of exercise, particularly as we age and become more vulnerable to health issues and increased risks of developing cancer.

 Image: adrian valenzuela

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