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Metastatic cancer risk reduced by as much as 72% with high intensity exercise

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Using data from a prospective study, researchers found 72% less metastatic cancer in participants who regularly engaged in high intensity aerobic activity.

Studying the effects of exercise in cancer-free individuals

For the study, Prof. Levy and Dr. Yftach Gepner, senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University, combined data from a prospective study conducted by the Israel Center for Disease ControlTrusted Source and the Nutrition Department of the Israeli Ministry of HealthTrusted Source.

They looked at 2,734 men and women selected from the Israeli general population who were originally cancer free and between the ages of 25 and 64 who were examined before and after running.

Participants responded to two physical activity questionnaires about vigorous and moderate activity that lasted for 10 minutes. They were followed over a 20-year period.

Additionally, researchers recruited 14 male and female runners ages 25 to 45.

Participants were excluded for being smokers, taking prescribed medications, or having a history of chronic pulmonary, cardiac, metabolic, or orthopedic conditions.

They were also asked to avoid caffeine for 12 hours, food for 3 hours, and strenuous physical activity for at least 24 hours before arriving at the laboratory for testing.

Participants ran for 30 minutes on a treadmill at the highest speed they could manage for the entire duration.

Next, researchers collected ventilator and metabolic measurements using breath-by-breath analysis and monitored the heart rate of participants using a chest strap. They collected blood from the participants before and after they exercised.

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Effects of exercise on metastatic cancer in mice

In another study, the researchers used an animal model where mice were subjected to exercise regimens.

They selected female mice because they’ve shown an increased metabolic response to exercise compared with males.

One group of mice was used as a control. The other was subjected to an exercise training protocol on a treadmill. Mice exercised every other day. Gradually, the researchers increased the duration and intensity of the exercise. This went on for 8 weeks.

Some of the mice were then injected with melanoma cells. After 4 days of recovery, researchers again subjected these mice to regular exercise on the treadmill for 4 additional weeks.

Later, researchers harvested the lungs, lymph nodes, livers, and skeletal muscles of both sedentary mice and mice subjected to exercise for proteomicTrusted Source and ex vivo metabolic capacity analyses.

“We took organs that usually host metastasis,” Levy told MNT.

“And we said, ‘Let’s dissect those organs and see how these organs behave after long-term physical activity.”

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Impact of exercise on internal organs

Proteomic analysis of the blood of the routinely active participants showed increased carbohydrate usage after exercise.

Data from the prospective study showed that exercise prior to developing cancer had a modest impact on diagnoses of slow-growing cancer.

However, exercise “significantly reduced the likelihood of highly metastatic cancer,” according to the researchers.

Among the participants studied, those who reported regular aerobic exercise at high intensity had 72% less metastatic cancer than sedentary participants.

In the mouse study, researchers found that mice subjected to exercise prior to being injected with cancer cells were “significantly protected” against metastases in distant organs.

Proteomic and ex vivo metabolic capacity analyses of the mice organs showed that exercise induces catabolic processes, glucose uptake, mitochondrial activity, and GLUT expression.

When researchers looked at the mice organs, they discovered that long-term physical activity changes muscles (increasing muscle mass) and changes organs.

“We discovered that internal organs like lymph nodes, like lung, like liver, those organs that are usually hosting cancer [are] changing when there is chronic physical activity,” Levy told MNT.

“They change in [the] sense that they become super metabolic. And when I say super metabolic, I mean their demand for glucose and demand for their mitochondria is increasing [and] their glucose uptake is increasing. They’re becoming like superhero organs.”

When cancer attempts to attack these organs, it loses the fight, the researchers believe.

Dr. Adrian Cristian, chief of cancer rehabilitation at Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida, explained to MNT that with this study, the researchers demonstrated “that exercise induces changes in the micro-environment of cancer cells that make it inhospitable for them to grow when they are out-competed by non-cancer cells for nutrients.”