Exercise – the new daily medical prescription for cancer

Scientists explain the medical link between exercise and improved immune status for both prevention of disease and for cancer patients to avoid recurrence.

An important group of cells involved in the process of protecting the body from cancer, called T-Cells have been shown to be better armed in people taking regular exercise.

Experts from Nebraska Medical Centre have analysed the blood from different groups of people and their findings indicate that those taking exercise have an immune system that is better prepared to protect them against disease. Cancer patients who had completed chemotherapy and then taken exercise for several weeks had higher levels of ‘primed’ T-Cells than sedentary patients and this significantly reduces their risk of getting a secondary cancer.

Previous studies had already identified ways in which exercise improves immunity to cancer. The key points associated with exercise include:

  • decrease risk of developing several different cancers
  • improved prognosis in patients with cancer
  • decrease risk of recurrence and secondary cancers

So, the Nebraska study is important as it starts to show specifically how exercise can improve immune status. The exercise programs consisted of strength and endurance training, cardiovascular exercise, and exercises for posture, flexibility and balance, with extra work in areas where they were weakest. Lead researcher, Dr Bilek says: "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."

A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
The use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. Full medical glossary
The organs specialised to fight infection. Full medical glossary
An assessment of the likely progress of a condition. Full medical glossary
A tumour or abnormal swelling that results from the spread of another malignant (uncontrolled) tumour to a distant part of the body. Full medical glossary
A type of lymphocyte, a white blood cell that fights infection. Full medical glossary
Relating to blood vessels. Full medical glossary