Exercise And Cancer

What Is the Relation Between exercise and cancer?


5/12/20233 min read

group of women doing yoga
group of women doing yoga

Exercise And Cancer

Regular exercise has been linked to a myriad of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular function, weight management, and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. However, recent research has shown that regular exercise may also be an effective tool in reducing the risk of cancer.

While there is no guarantee that exercise will prevent the development of cancer, there is growing evidence that physical activity can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including colon, breast, endometrial, and lung cancer. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that a higher level of physical activity was associated with a significantly lower risk of thirteen different types of cancer.

But how does exercise reduce the risk of cancer?

There are several ways in which exercise may play a protective role. Firstly, regular exercise has been shown to help control weight, which is a risk factor for several different types of cancer such as breast, colorectal, and endometrial cancer. Additionally, exercise may help reduce inflammation in the body, which has been linked to the development of cancer.

Exercise also improves the body's immune function, which can help to identify and eliminate cancer cells before they have a chance to grow and spread. Exercise has been shown to increase the presence of natural killer cells, which are a type of white blood cell that play a critical role in fighting cancer. Furthermore, exercise has been shown to increase the body's levels of antioxidants, which can help to neutralize free radicals that can damage DNA and lead to cancer.

"Cytotoxic T cells mediate exercise-induced reduction in tumor growth”.

People with cancer who exercise generally have a better prognosis than inactive patients. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have found a likely explanation for why exercise helps slow the growth of cancer : Physical activity changes the metabolism of the immune system's cytotoxic T cells and thus improves their ability to attack the cancer cells. The study was published in the journal eLife.

The exercise-induced reduction in tumor growth depends on CD8+ T cells and metabolites produced in skeletal muscle and released into plasma at high levels during exercise; in both mice and humans they improve the expression profile of CD8+ T cells on the immune system.

The researchers state: “ We found that activated CD8+ T cells alter their central carbon metabolism in response to exercise and that immune cells from trained mice are more potent antitumor cells when transferred to untrained tumor-bearing animals. These data demonstrate that CD8+ T cells are metabolically altered by exercise so that they act to enhance their antitumor efficacy ."

Exercise affects almost every tissue in the body and being physically active can reduce the risk of developing any form of cancer and at the same time slow its progression for those affected or genetically predisposed to it.

One of the hallmarks of cancer is the ability of its cancer cells to evade detection by the immune system , which in some cases can prevent the body from killing cancer cells because they go undetected. CD8+ T cells, which are also involved in identifying cancer cells, are more "activated" by physical exercise. This ability of T cells to identify and eliminate cancer cells is essential for slowing tumor growth, and is one of the cornerstones of current immunotherapy treatments.

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between exercise and cancer, the evidence suggests that physical activity can play an important role in reducing the risk of cancer. Further, exercise can also improve the overall quality of life in cancer patients and survivors, reducing fatigue, anxiety, and depression and improving physical function.

So, how much exercise is needed to reduce the risk of cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, or a combination of both.


Incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine can provide numerous health benefits, including reducing your risk of cancer. Along with a healthy diet and other lifestyle changes, exercise can help you maintain your health and well-being, and significantly reduce your risk of developing a range of chronic medical conditions.