New research from Edith Cowan University, Australia is showing that exercise may be one of the most effective ways to fight cancer.

The research focused on male prostate cancer sufferers and showed that proteins secreted as a result of exercise could suppress tumour growth.

Exercise: an effective way to fight cancer?


The researchers were building on previous research that suggested that exercise could have beneficial effects for cancer sufferers.

One molecule that had already been identified as playing a potential role in these beneficial effects is myokines, a molecule secreted by skeletal muscle after exercise. However, there were no substantial studies of how this kind of molecule might work.

The researchers’ clinical trial involved obese prostate cancer patients who undertook regular exercise training for 12 weeks. The patients gave blood samples before and after the exercise program.

Researchers then took the samples and applied them directly onto living prostate cancer cells.

It was noted that myokines, the serum concentrations of which were increased after the subjects performed exercise, were able to help suppress tumour growth.

Professor Robert Newton, who supervised the study, said that the results help to explain why cancer progresses more slowly in patients who exercise.

“The patients’ levels of anti-cancer myokines increased in the three months.

“When we took their pre-exercise blood and their post-exercise blood and placed it over living prostate cancer cells, we saw a significant suppression of the growth of those cells from the post-training blood.

“That’s quite substantial indicating chronic exercise creates a cancer suppressive environment in the body.”

Researcher lead Jin-Soo Kim, a current PhD student, said that while myokines could signal cancer cells to grow slower or even stop growing completely, they were unable to kill the cells by themselves. Myokines can, however, team up with other cells in the blood to fight and kill cancer.

“Myokines in and of themselves don’t signal the cells to die,” Mr Kim said.

“But they do signal our immune cells — T-cells — to attack and kill the cancer cells.”

Professor Newton said exercise also complements other prostate cancer treatments such as androgen deprivation therapy, which is both effective and commonly prescribed but can also lead to significant reduction in lean mass and an increase in fat mass. This can result in sarcopenic obesity (being obese with low muscle mass), poorer health and cancer outcomes.

All of the participants in the study were undergoing ADT and were obese. The training program saw them maintain lean mass at the same time as losing fat mass.

The results also explain why many men, if they stay active, are able to fight cancer for longer. Recently, we also reported on another study which showed that eating more protein and having more muscle mass can help you survive cancer for longer.

Results from a recent study showing that increased protein intake can help you survive cancer for longer

Although prostate cancer was focused on it because it is the most common non-skin cancer among men and leads to a high number of patient fatalities, Professor Newton said the findings could have a wider impact.

“We believe this mechanism applies to all cancers.” .

ECU is carrying out further studies, including a trial where patients with advanced-stage prostate cancer are put through a six-month exercise program.

The study should provide further evidence – as if it’s needed – that exercise is one of the best insurance policies you can take out against ill health.

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