We know regular exercise prevents certain cancers and even lowers the risk of recurrence. Exercise may directly slow cancer growth and aggressiveness, but we know little about the cellular mechanisms that exercise uses to stop cancer. One thought is that hormones and other molecules released during exercise primes the immune system – activating immune cells to suppress cancer growth. In the study below, researchers found that when mice with cancer run for 6 weeks on a wheel they had a 60% reduction in cancer growth. The researchers wanted to know how exercise was doing this. What they found was that in fact exercise increases the number of cancer killing immune cells at the site of the cancer. They then wanted to figure out what chemical signals released during exercise are influencing the immune cells. The researchers found that epinephrine, the fight or flight hormone released during exercise, and interleukin 6, a molecule released into the bloodstream from contracting skeletal muscle, work together to mobilize and activate anti-cancer immune cells. Research like this could lead to new effective cancer therapies. Who else thinks exercise is medicine? 📚Pedersen, et al. Voluntary Running Suppresses Tumor Growth through Epinephrine- and IL-6-Dependent NK Cell Mobilization and Redistribution. Cell Metabolism. 2016.
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