A little exercise goes a long way when fighting prostate cancer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A moderate amount of exercise maintains immunity cells in men with prostate cancer, according to a new study

The physiological response to exercise is well known among healthy people, but there is little evidence showing what the response is in cancer, which prompted the investigation, the Australian-based researchers write in the report. 

Participants were divided into three groups: 11 cancer survivors currently being treated with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), 14 men with prostate cancer not on ADT and 8 healthy people acting as the control group. Each group was told to cycle 3 minutes at a time followed by 90 seconds of recovery for a total of 30 minutes of exercise and 15 minutes of recovery. 

Researchers then measured what are called natural killer (NK) cells–a type of white blood cell that plays a major role in destroying tumors–along with other blood biomarkers immediately after cycling, two hours post exercise and 24 hours after the session. 

Results showed, on average, the 11 cancer survivors receiving ADT, as well as, those currently diagnosed with prostate cancer had higher levels of natural killer cells at all three time points than they did prior to exercising suggesting that exercise is a way of not only combating the disease, but it also benefits survivors.

Prostate cancer treatments, such as ADT, have side effects including increased risk of bone fractures, loss of muscle mass and physical strength. Exercise, researchers say, can reduce these side effects. 

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. behind smoking. Approximately 1 in 9 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime and statistics show 1 in 41 men will die as a result. However, the 5-year survival rate is nearly 100% while the 10-year survival rate is 98%.

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over five years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets.