Cancer is one of the most insidious diseases there is. It’s a disease that knows no boundaries, and doesn’t care age age, race, gender or standing in life.
There are probably not many people reading this who have not been affected by the disease, either directly or indirectly having family members or close friends trying to cope with the horrible illness.
We hope that one day we may be able to eliminate this blight on our existence, and governments and charities are always looking to fund studies and discover new ways to fight against it.
However some of these recent studies have suggest that regular exercise may have a dramatic positive affect on those who are battling the disease. The positive evidence for regular exercise during and after cancer treatment has become so strong that an American College of Sports Medicine panel is revising its groups national guidelines and is set to recommend regular exerciser for cancer survivors.
The panel is to recommend that cancer patients attempt to undertake the same amount of weekly exercise recommended to anyone else, about 150 mins a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
Research published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute has shed some light on why regular exercise is so necessary for cancer patients when battling the disease.
Brad Behnke, an exercise physiologist at Kansas State University has been studying prostate-cancer tumor growth in rats. The rats were split into two groups – those that were allowed to exercise and those that lived sedentary lives.
Behnke discovered that rats, like humans, divert blood flow to the muscles when exercising. The research shows a 200 per cent increase in tumor blood flow during exercise.
Speaking to runners world, Behnke explained that “When a tumor lacks oxygen, it releases just about every growth factor you can think of, which often results in metastasis. Simply speaking, the tumor says, ‘I can’t breathe here, so let’s pick up and move somewhere else in the body.”
However when a tumor is bathed in oxygen, as the rats who exercised were, its activity tends to slow down. An earliest study by Behnke demonstrated a 90% decrease in “tumor hypoxia “ (low oxygen) among rates that engaged in long term, moderate-intensity treadmill exercise.
Another study showed that shown that aerobic exercise can lead to “normalization of the tissue micro environment in human breast tumors.” In non scientific terms, exercise can help the tissue return to its per-tumor state, or prevent development in more aggressive and dangerous form.
The regular exercise ensures greater blood flow and oxygen delivery to a tumor. This can can potentially increase transport of cancer-fighting therapies to the tumor. For example, exercisers respond better to radiation treatments, Behnke said.
Dr Pernille Hojam, of the University of Copenhagen has also done research into the affects of exercise of cancer patients. Her studies reiterated previous findings that exercise on a regular basis also aids in weight loss and the loss of body fat, which may work to reduce cancer risk as well. Several previous health studies have found a link that suggests that regular physical activity helps reduce the potential risk of prostate, lung and endometrial cancer.