Scientists at Newcastle University have revealed how exercised can lower your risk of getting bowel cancer and slow the growth of tumours.

The scientists showed that exercise causes interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cancer-fighting protein, to be released into the bloodstream.

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Exercise and cancer: new research

Dr Sam Orange, Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at Newcastle University, said: “Previous scientific evidence suggests that more exercise is better for reducing bowel cancer risk as the more physical activity people do, the lower their chances of getting it. Our findings support this idea.

“When exercise is repeated multiple times each week over an extended period, cancer-fighting substances — such as IL-6 — released into the bloodstream have the opportunity to interact with abnormal cells, repairing their DNA and reducing growth into cancer.”

The new research took place in the form of a small-scale study, which will be used as “proof of principle” for further research.

The team recruited 16 men aged between 50 and 80. All of the participants had lifestyle factors that put them at risk of bowel cancer, such as being overweight or obese and not physically active.

The participants gave an initial blood sample, then cycled on indoor bikes for half an hour at a moderate intensity. A second blood sample was taken as soon as they finished exercising.

To provide a control, on a different day the scientists took further blood samples before and after the participants had rested. Tests were carried out to see if exercise altered the concentration of cancer-fighting proteins in the blood compared to resting samples. The scientists found that there was an increase in IL-6 in particular.

Next, the scientists added the blood samples to bowel cancer cells in the lab and monitored cell growth over two days. Blood samples collected right after exercise slowed the growth of the cancer cells compared with those collected at rest.

In addition, the exercise blood samples reduced the extent of DNA damage, suggesting that physical activity can actually help to repair cells that might be at risk of becoming cancerous.

Exercise reduces depression symptoms and increases benefits of theraphy


Two new studies reveal that exercising for only half an hour can have mood-raising effects for at least 75 minutes afterwards, as well as boosting the effects of therapy.

“A lot of previous research on the effects of exercise on mental health, in general, have used very broad measures of wellbeing. What we were interested in, specifically, is: how does acute exercise — that is, one session of exercise in a day — influence the primary symptoms of depression,” said Jacob Meyer, a professor of kinesiology at ISU and the lead-author of both publications.

In the first study, the researchers took 30 adults who were experiencing episodes of major depression . The participants filled out electronic surveys immediately before, half-way-through and then after a 30-minute session of either moderate-intensity cycling or sitting, and then again 25, 50 and 75 minutes after the workout. Those who cycled during the first lab visit came back a week later to run through the experiment again with 30-minutes of sitting, and vice versa.

The surveys included questions and scales that are generally used to measure symptoms of depression and several cognitive tasks, including the Stroop test.

The researchers then used the survey data to track any changes in three characteristics of major depressive disorder: depressed mood state, anhedonia (problems experiencing pleasure from enjoyable activities) and reduced cognitive function.

Click here to read more about this fascinating research into the cognitive benefits of exercise

Dr Orange said: “Our findings are really exciting because they reveal a newly identified mechanism underlying how physical activity reduces bowel cancer risk that is not dependent on weight loss.

“Understanding these mechanisms better could help develop more precise exercise guidelines for cancer prevention. It could also help develop drug treatments that mimic some of the health benefits of exercise.

“Physical activity of any type, and any duration, can improve health and reduce bowel cancer risk but more is always better. People who are sedentary should begin by moving more and look to build physical activity into their daily routines.”

Dr Adam Odell, Senior Lecturer in Biosciences from York St John University, who was also involved in the study added: “Importantly, it is not just bowel cancer risk that can be reduced by leading a more active lifestyle. Clear links exist between higher exercise levels and a lower risk of developing other cancers, such as cancers of the breast and endometrium.

“By working out a mechanism through which regular physical activity is able to produce anti-cancer effects, our study provides further support for current national and global efforts to increase exercise participation.”

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