Even Small Amounts of Exercise May Be Beneficial to Stage IV Cancer Patients

Exercise has been linked with many benefits for cancer patients, including increased muscle strength, improved bone health, fewer effects of chemo brain, and lessened depression. A new study out of Australia finds that even small amounts of exercise may also induce bodily processes that help combat cancer, even for stage IV patients.

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Researchers at Edith Cowan University had previously found that among men with advanced prostate cancer, six months of regular exercise can change the body’s chemical environment to allow it to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. This was through increased levels of myokines, proteins produced by skeletal muscles that can hamper tumor growth and induce a variety of other processes that can fight back against cancer. Now, a follow-up study, published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, shows that even one workout session may trigger such processes.

Rob Newton, study supervisor and Edith Cowan University professor, says, “The findings from our work are particularly exciting because we report for the first time ever that men with advanced prostate cancer are able to produce an acute elevation in anti-cancer molecules called myokines in response to a single bout of vigorous exercise.

“This is helping us to understand why patients with cancer who exercise exhibit slower disease progression and survive for longer.”

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To conduct the study, the team had nine patients with stage IV prostate cancer do a high intensity workout on a stationary bike for 34 minutes. Just before and immediately after this workout, blood serum samples were collected, with a third sample taken 30 minutes later.

The researchers found that the samples taken just after the exercise had higher levels of myokines, which suppressed growth of prostate cancer cells in vitro by about 17%. After 30 minutes, however, the levels were back to where they’d been before the workout.

Newton says more research is needed into how much exercise could provide these tumor-suppressing benefits, but the results are promising.

He explains, “The optimal dose of exercise is not yet known, but it is likely to be 20-plus minutes each day and must include resistance training to grow the muscles, increase the size and capacity of the internal pharmacy, and stimulate the myokine production.

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“This study provides strong evidence for the recommendation patients with prostate cancer, and likely anybody with any cancer type, should perform exercise most days, if not every day, to maintain a chemical environment within their body which is suppressive of cancer cell proliferation.”

If you’re a cancer patient thinking about starting an exercise routine, be sure to talk to your doctor about what may be best for your fitness level, cancer type and stage, and treatment.

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