Aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of metastatic cancer by 72%, according to a new study from Tel Aviv University.
According to the researchers, intense aerobic exercise reduces the availability of energy to the tumour by increasing glucose consumption of internal organs. By combining scientific research from different schools at the university, the researchers were able to make an important discovery, which the team believe may help prevent metastatic cancer.
The study was led by Professor Carmit Levy of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Dr Yftach Gepner from the School of Public Health and the Sylvan Adams Sports Institute.
The paper has been published in the journal Cancer Research.
Those who exercise regularly have a significantly lower risk
“Studies have demonstrated that physical exercise reduces the risk for 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”, explained Levy.
“In this study, we added new insight, showing that high-intensity aerobic exercise, which derives its energy from sugar, can reduce the risk of metastatic cancer. so, for the general message to the public has been ‘be active, be healthy, now we can explain how aerobic activity can maximise the prevention of the most aggressive and metastatic types of cancer,” she added.
The researchers conducted an animal model in which mice were subjected to a strict exercise programme. This was combined with data from healthy human volunteers who were examined before and after exercise. This human data was taken from an epidemiological study that monitored 3,000 participants for 20 years.
The data showed 72% fewer metastatic cancer cases in participants who completed regular aerobic activity at high intensity, compared to those who did not engage in physical exercise.
The study is the first to investigate the impact of exercise on the internal organs such as the lungs, liver, and lymph nodes, where metastatic cancer usually develops.
When examining the cells of these organs the researchers noticed a rise in the number of glucose receptors during high-intensity aerobic activity. This led to increased glucose intake, which effectively turned the organs into effective energy-consumption machines.
Depriving metastasis cancer of glucose can kill the disease
“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,” said Levy.
If metastatic cancer develops, the competition for glucose in the body can reduce the availability of energy that metastasis needs to survive. When a person regularly exercises, this condition can become permanent. Internal organ tissue can change and become like 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 cancer cannot spread, and the primary tumour also shrinks in size,” added Levy.
“Our results indicate that unlike fat-burning exercise, which is relatively moderate, it is a high-intensity aerobic activity that helps in cancer prevention.” Said Dr Gepner.
The results have led researchers to recommend that healthy individuals should also include high-intensity components in their fitness programmes to avoid metastatic cancer.
“We believe that future studies will enable personalised medicine for preventing specific cancers, with physicians reviewing family histories to recommend the right kind of physical activity. It must be emphasised that physical exercise, with its unique metabolic and physiological effects, exhibits a higher level of cancer prevention than any medication or medical intervention to date,” concluded Dr Gepner.