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Epidemiological data indicate that regular exercise not only reduces the risk of developing cancer, but it also improves survival among people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Two theories have emerged to explain exercise’s tumor-suppressive effects. Whereas one theory suggests that exercise acts via direct physical effects on tumor cells, the other theory suggests that it acts via indirect effects related to the tumor microenvironment. Findings from a recent study suggest that myokines suppress tumor growth.

Myokines are cell-signaling proteins produced in muscles during exercise. Evidence indicates that myokines exert direct anti-inflammatory effects on visceral fat and muscles. They also participate in metabolic pathways involving fat oxidation and glucose uptake – critical factors in tumor survival.

The intervention study involved 10 prostate cancer patients (average age, 73 years) who were undergoing androgen deprivation therapy, a common treatment for prostate cancer that often decreases muscle mass and increases fat mass. The patients engaged in a 12-week exercise program that included resistance and aerobic activities. The patients took a protein supplement that provided 40 grams of protein immediately after each exercise session to promote muscle protein synthesis. The authors of the study assessed the patients' body composition via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and measured their muscle strength via the one-repetition maximum method. Before and after the intervention, they measured the patients' fasting blood glucose; serum concentrations of myokines, including oncostatin M (which exibits anti-cancer effects); and prostate cell number and growth rate.

They found that at the end of the intervention, the patients' fat mass, percent body fat, and body weight had decreased, but their lean mass and strength increased. Concentrations of oncostatin M and prostate cancer cell number and growth rate decreased.

These findings suggest that exercise exerts anti-tumor effects via the actions of myokines produced in exercising muscles. They also underscore the importance of remaining physically active throughout the lifespan. Learn how exercise, in conjunction with fasting, may work synergistically to benefit health in this episode featuring Dr. Mark Mattson.

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