Researchers have identified precisely how exercise reduces bowel cancer risk and slows tumor growth. The researchers have demonstrated that physical activity results in interleukin-6 (IL-6), the cancer-fighting protein, being released into the blood which helps in repairing the DNA of damaged cells.
Prior scientific evidence indicates that the more physical activity individuals undertake, the lower the chances of getting bowel cancer. Exercising multiple times every week for a prolonged period, cancer-fighting substances such as IL-6 are released into the blood and potentially interfere with abnormal cells, reducing the risk of growing into cancer and repairing their DNA.
It’s estimated that the risk of bowel cancer is reduced by about 20% with physical activity, which could be from playing sports, going to the gym, biking or walking to work, as well as from household tasks or gardening.
For this small-scale study, 16 men between the ages of 50 and 80 were recruited, all of who had bowel cancer lifestyle risk factors, such as being obese or overweight and physically inactive. After initial blood samples were provided, the individuals cycled at a moderate intensity on indoor bikes for a total of 30 minutes, and a 2nd blood sample was taken the moment they finished pedaling.
Additional blood samples were taken before and after the individuals had rested on a separate day as a control measure. Tests were performed to determine if cancer-fighting protein concentrations in the blood were changed by exercise in comparison to resting samples and an increase in IL-6 protein was found after exercising.
The blood samples were added to cancer cells of the bowel in a lab and cell growth was monitored over 2 days. Blood samples collected immediately after exercise slowed cancer cell growth in comparison to blood samples collected at rest.
In addition to reducing the growth of cancer, the extent of damage to DNA was reduced by the exercise blood samples, which suggests that physical activity helps in repairing cells to generate a genetically stable type of cell.
Any duration and any kind of physical activity can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer but more is always better. Sedentary individuals should start by moving more and integrating physical activity into a daily routine. It’s not just the risk of bowel cancer that can be reduced by following a more active lifestyle. There are associations between higher levels of exercise and a reduced risk of getting other cancers, such as endometrium and breast cancer.
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