Exercise Kills Cancer With Adrenaline?!

Photo credit: bigstock.com

Photo credit: bigstock.com

For many years, doctors have ascribed to the philosophy that “rest is the best medicine.” In many situations, this is indeed the case. But when it comes to one of the most serious forms of disease, the opposite approach may actually be more beneficial. Recent research has proven that regular, vigorous exercise can not only reduce the likelihood of developing cancer, but it can actually fight off the disease and significantly increase chances of recovery.


The Evidence

Numerous studies have given credence to the idea that consistent exercise can help the body fight off existing cancers and reduce the risk of the cancer returning, as well as prevent cancer from occurring in the first place. More than one hundred studies have been published detailing such findings.

The exact percentages of cancer risk reduction vary depending on both the study and the type of cancer, but the results all clearly point in the same direction.

According to a study published in JAMA Oncology, middle-aged males who exercised regularly had significantly reduced risks of multiple forms of cancer. For bowel cancer, these men showed a 45 percent lower risk than men who did not exercise, and a 55 percent reduction in the risk of lung cancer. For men who already had cancer, survival rates were higher for those with better cardiovascular health. These men showed a 32 percent increase in survival rates for bowel and lung cancer, as well as prostate cancer.

Another study showed that resistance training with weights decreased the risk of death in male test subjects by 40 percent.

Women benefit just as much from exercise when it comes to beating and preventing cancer. Studies published in Cancer Causes & Control, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention all produced fantastic results. One study indicated that women who were more physically active, even just at home rather than the gym, had a 38 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who were sedentary most of the day.

Other studies on women focused more on the benefits of formal exercise. More than one study concluded that the earlier in life that women start exercising, the better. Girls who began exercising in their teens had a significantly reduced chance of developing cancer later in life, and a 20 percent reduction in “death from all causes.” Rigorous physical activity seems particularly beneficial for post-menopausal women. Seven cohort studies and 14 different case-controlled studies all produced similar results: These women had a lower risk of breast cancer than women who did not exercise.

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Group doing stretching exercises in back training class in a fit

Photo credit: bigstock.com

Why Does This Happen?

While everyone knows that exercise in general is good for building strength and maintaining health, scientists wanted to know why exercise seems to have such a strong effect on the likelihood of preventing and recovering from cancer. One idea that has been put forward is the role that adrenaline appears to play in this process.

A study performed on mice with cancerous tumors showed that the mice who were made to exercise experienced a reduction in tumor growth of 50 percent versus the control group. Researchers suspected that this drastic change might be linked the release of adrenaline that occurs during strenuous physical activity (this happens in humans, too). A release of adrenaline can actually bolster the immune system by helping guide Natural Killer (NK) Cells to the location of cancerous growths in the body.

Natural killer cells are a special type of white blood cells that play a key role in attacking and killing tumors. In aforementioned study, the researchers injected adrenaline into mice who were already afflicted with tumors. The results were that increased adrenaline did indeed cause the natural killer cells to circulate better and attack and the tumors.

To confirm that adrenaline — whether injected or released via exercise — was indeed improving the mouse’s ability to fight off tumors, researchers tested whether or not exercise or adrenaline injections had any effect on special mice that had been bred by researchers to lack natural killer cells.

The results confirmed their suspicions: In the specially bred mice with no natural killer cells, neither exercise nor adrenaline injections had any effect of tumor growth. But in the mice that did have NK cells, the adrenaline helped guide the cancer-fighters right to the site of the tumor.


Rethinking Cancer Treatment and Physical Activity

In the past, most doctors recommended patients get as much rest as possible while undergoing cancer treatment. But in light of this new evidence, the medical establishment is beginning to change their tune when it comes to physical activity. Both Johns Hopkins and Macmillan Cancer Support now recommend that cancer patients get 2.5 hours of exercise per week while undergoing treatment.

More good news: Those who exercise have a much lower chance of their cancer coming back after recovery. A study on colon and breast cancer patients found that those who exercised regularly had 50 percent lower chance of cancer recurrence versus participants who did not exercise.


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If you’re currently undergoing cancer treatment, don’t just lay around! Talk to your doctor about beginning an exercise program, or continue exercising if you already do. The evidence is overwhelming that it can improve the odds of survival.