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Exercise Prevents Cancer By Promoting Cell Death - Both Skin and Bowel Cancer Studies Show Voluntary Workouts Reduce Risk

May 13th 2006

Exercise Prevents Cancer By Promoting Cell Death - Both Skin and Bowel Cancer Studies Show Voluntary Workouts Reduce Risk

Skin cancer

Two studies highlight the benefits of exercise, including lower risks of skin cancer and bowel cancer.  In the first study, published in the journal Carcinogenesis, exposed female mice to ultraviolet B light (UVB).  The researchers found that the mice that had 24-hour access to running wheels took longer to develop skin tumors and had fewer of them.  The tumors were also smaller in the mice that were exercising. 

Scientists believe that programmed cell death, called apoptosis, can be triggered by exercise.  The problem with cancer cells is that they do not die like normal cells. Dr. Allan Conney said “Preliminary indications from follow-up work in the laboratory suggest that voluntary exercise enhances UVB-induced apoptosis in the skin, and that it also enhances apoptosis in UVB-induced tumors. So, although UVB is triggering the development of tumors, exercise is counteracting the effect by stimulating the death of the developing cancer cells.”  Dr. Conney is Garbe professor of Cancer and Leukemia Research.


Most people may be surprised that exercise promotes cell death.  Dr. Conney adds “Our studies may be the first to suggest an apoptotic mechanism for the effect of voluntary exercise in the development of cancer. In addition, we found that voluntary exercise decreased body fat and that the number of tumours decreased with decreasing amounts of fat. This effect may also play an important role in the mechanism and warrants further investigation, bearing in mind the growing rates of obesity in the Western world, particularly in the USA and UK."

Researchers found that voluntary exercise and a restricted diet in male mice helped prevent pre-cancerous polyps in the intestines, and the number and size of polyps.  They found that exercise also improved survival.


Even more interesting was the wording of the bowel cancer research.  Dr. Lisa Colbert believes that a “negative energy balance”, produced by increasing the mice's energy output (by use of a running wheel) while maintaining a restricted calorie intake, appeared to be the important factor in inhibiting the growth of polyps in the intestines.  Dr. Colbert is the Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She says that “"Negative energy balance was indicated by a lower body weight among the exercising mice, although they retained more body fat at the end of the study than the non-exercising mice – an observation that might be due to the fact that the exercising mice were healthier, while the health of the non-exercising mice was beginning to decline due to higher numbers of polyps. There were higher levels of hormones known to be associated with the onset of cancer – insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and corticosterone – amongst the exercising mice, but this did not correlate with higher total polyp numbers. These data suggest that voluntary exercise that induces a negative energy balance protects against the onset of cancer in these mice, but that the mechanism is unlikely to be related to body composition, IGF-1 or corticosterone."


Scientists are still not sure what the exact mechanism is for reducing the incidence of cancer, but earlier research showed that physically active people have a reduced risk of developing the disease.

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Dan Wilson
Best Syndication

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Important:  The material on Best Syndication is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness program.

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