Keeping fit `may help ward off cancer`

Updated: Oct 27, 2012, 14:48 PM IST

London: Exercising merely three times a week could play a major role in fighting cancer and triggering a dramatic change in the immune system to help keep the disease at bay, researchers say.

According to a new study, keeping fit can not only help stop cancer from returning for those who have already suffered from it but may also prevent the disease from striking in the first place.

The study claims that cancer survivors who completed a 12-week whole body workout exercise programme, exercising just three times a week after finishing their chemotherapy treatment, “remodelled” their immune systems which then became more efficient and effective, helping to protect against the disease returning.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska said that exercise also reduces the chances of getting cancer altogether in people who have never had the disease.

Dr Laura Bilek, associate professor at the university’s medical centre, said that the findings of the study highlight the importance of exercise for those with cancer and cancer survivors.

She said they might benefit in particular from the heightened ability of the immune system to seek out and destroy budding cancers – so-called “cancer surveillance”.

“There’s a litany of positive benefits from exercise. If exercise indeed strengthens the immune system and potentially improves cancer surveillance, it’s one more thing we should educate patients about as a reason they should schedule regular activity throughout their day and make it a priority in their lives,” the Daily Express quoted Dr Bilek as saying.

Dr Bilek and her team analysed T cells, which are vital for the immune system, in the blood of 16 cancer survivors who had recently finished chemotherapy.

The patients undertook a 12-week programme involving cardiovascular exercise, strength and endurance training, and exercises for flexibility, posture, and balance.

The researchers discovered that after the exercise regime a significant portion of T cells converted from being of a form which is not effective at combating disease to a more potent form, ready to fight cancer and infections.

“What we’re suggesting is that with exercise, you might be getting rid of T cells that aren’t helpful and making room for T cells that might be helpful,” Dr Bilek added.

The study has been published by the American Physiological Society.