Exercise can reduce the risk of cancer by 72 per cent, according to a new study published by Tel Aviv University.
According to the researchers, aerobic exercise – like brisk walking, running, swimming, or cycling – increases the glucose consumption of internal organs, reducing the availability of energy to the tumor.
It’s the first study to investigate the impact of exercise on the internal organs in which metastases – the spread of cancer cells from the place where they first formed to another part of the body – usually develop, like the lungs, liver, and lymph nodes.
The researchers injected mice with cancer cells and placed them under a “strict exercise regimen”. They found that aerobic activity reduced the development of metastatic tumors in the physically fit animals.
They simultaneously used human data from a study that monitored 3,000 individuals for about 20 years, which examined them before and after running.
“Our study is the first to investigate the impact of exercise on the internal organs in which metastases usually develop, like the lungs, liver, and lymph nodes,” said Prof Carmit Levy, of the Department of Human Genetics and Biochemistry, and one of the researchers who led the study.
“Examining the cells of these organs we found a rise in the number of glucose receptors during high-intensity aerobic activity – increasing glucose intake and turning the organs into effective energy-consumption machines, very much like the muscles.
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“We assume that this happens because the organs must compete for sugar resources with the muscles, known to burn large quantities of glucose during physical exercise.
“Consequently, if cancer develops, the fierce competition over glucose reduces the availability of energy that is critical to metastasis.
“Moreover, when a person exercises regularly, this condition becomes permanent: the tissues of internal organs change and become similar to muscle tissue. We all know that sports and physical exercise are good for our health.
“Our study, examining the internal organs, discovered that exercise changes the whole body, so that the cancer cannot spread, and the primary tumor also shrinks in size.
“If so far the general message to the public has been ‘be active, be healthy’, now we can explain how aerobic activity can maximize the prevention of the most aggressive and metastatic types of cancer.”
The paper was published in the academic journal Cancer Research.