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An excess of exercise could worsen cancer, according to a new study into prostate tumours.
Scientists found that prostate tumours in mice grew more quickly when the animals were active.
They speculate exercise might increase the blood flow to tumours, thereby assisting their growth. However, the researchers caution that human patients may not respond the same way as animals.
In the US study, prostate tumours were transplanted into the flanks of 50 mice. Half the animals were then placed in cages with exercise wheels, and all were fed the same diet.
Dr Lee Jones, from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said: “We found that among the mice that had the opportunity to voluntarily exercise, tumours grew approximately twice as fast as they did among the mice that did not have the opportunity to exercise.”
The findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego, California.
Tumours need a good blood supply to thrive, and send out signals which stimulate angiogenesis – the building of new blood vessels.
Researchers are actively looking at ways to combat this process to tackle cancer. However, heightened blood flow can also be used to carry anti-cancer medicines into a tumour more effectively.
With this in mind, the Duke team is looking at combining controlled levels of exercise with anti-cancer therapies given to prostate cancer patients.
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