Aerobic exercises shrink tumor, strongly reduce cancer spread risk

Credit: Gabin Vallet/ Unsplash

In a study from Tel Aviv University, scientists found that aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of metastatic cancer by 72%.

They found intensity aerobic exercise increases the glucose (sugar) consumption of internal organs, thereby reducing the availability of energy to the tumor.

Previous studies have found that physical exercise reduces the risk of some types of cancer by up to 35%. This positive effect is similar to the impact of exercise on other conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

In the study, the team combined an animal model in which mice were trained under a strict exercise regimen, with data from healthy human volunteers examined before and after running.

The human data, obtained from an epidemiological study that monitored 3,000 individuals for about 20 years, showed 72% less metastatic cancer in participants who reported regular aerobic activity at high intensity, compared to those who did not engage in physical exercise.

The animal model exhibited a similar outcome, also enabling the researchers to identify its underlying mechanism.

Sampling the internal organs of the physically fit animals, before and after physical exercise, and also following the injection of cancer, the team found that aerobic activity significantly reduced the development of metastatic tumors in the lymph nodes, lungs, and liver.

The researchers hypothesized that in both humans and model animals, this favorable outcome is related to the enhanced rate of glucose consumption induced by exercise.

The 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.

The team 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.

They 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.

The findings suggest that exercise changes the whole body so that cancer cannot spread, and the primary tumor also shrinks in size.

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The study was conducted by Prof. Carmit Levy et al and published in Cancer Research.

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