Prostate cancer is nearly inevitable for men. Many doctors believe that ALL men will get prostate cancer, if they live long enough. The only good news is that most prostate cancers grow so slowly that they do not require invasive treatment. A new research project has found that intense exercise can slow the (already slow) growth of prostate cancer cells.
Researchers in Sweden decided to measure the impact of intense exercise on prostate cancer. This was driven by the observation that the incidence of prostate cancer tracks the relative affluence of the country. The “well off” countries have a 20 times higher incidence of prostate cancer compared to less developed countries.
It is difficult to test theories about cancer cell growth with human subjects. This particular study, recently published in the journal PLOS One, used human subjects for the “exercise” portion of the study, but lab mice for the “cancer cell” portion of the study. Tough on the lab mice, yes, but at least no athletes were harmed in the production of these results.
The experiment was straight-forward. Ten volunteers had blood drawn before and immediately after intense exercise. The exercise consisted of peddling a stationary bicycle for an hour, at a speed that ensured near exhaustion. Prostate cancer cells were bathed in the drawn blood serum and their relative growth measured.
The results were encouraging. The cancer cells exposed to blood serum drawn after intense exercise showed nearly a third less growth than cancer cells exposed to blood serum drawn from resting individuals. Did the exercise kill the cancer? No, not at all. But it did slow the growth significantly. And with prostate cancer, this may be all it takes to live a long and healthy life.