Can Exercise Help Prevent Cancer?

You’ve heard it before, exercising is good for you. It’s a proven fact that exercising for at least 20 minutes a day can benefit your overall health and prevent some diseases–possibly even cancer.

In a 2016 study by the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute, researchers linked exercise to a lowered risk of 13 different types of cancer.

Previous studies had indicated that exercise may reduce the risk of breast, colon and endometrial cancer, but this updated study, published 2016 in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that physical activity was associated with a significantly decreased risk of not only these 3 cancers, but also esophageal cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia. In addition, physical activity was strongly associated with a decreased risk of multiple myeloma cancers.

How does exercise impact cancer? By helping control weight, reducing sex hormones or insulin and by strengthening the immune system.

According to a Swedish study done on mice, physical activity changes the metabolism of the immune system’s cytotoxic T-cells (or white blood cells), which improves their ability to attack cancer cells. This activation of the immune system bolsters the body’s ability to prevent and inhibit cancer growth.

Exercise also reduces the risk of obesity and promotes healthy weight, which is beneficial to your immune system’s ability to fight disease.

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The Swedish study at Karolinska Institutet found that “exercise affects the production of several molecules and metabolites that activate cancer-fighting immune cells and thereby inhibit cancer growth,” says Helene Rundqvist, senior researcher at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, “We hope these results may contribute to a deeper understanding of how our lifestyle impacts our immune system and inform the development of new immunotherapies against cancer.”

While there is still much to learn about cancer and preventative measures people can take to reduce their risk of cancer, exercise is a tried and true method of preventing harmful diseases. So lace up your running shoes and get moving!

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