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Regular Physical Exercise Significantly Reduces Risk Of Bowel Cancer

Research conducted by scientists at Newcastle University has shown that exercise causes the cancer-fighting protein interleukin-6 to be released into the bloodstream, which helps to repair the DNA of damaged cells.

The findings, which were published in the International Journal of Cancer, shows the importance of physical activity in the fight against life-threatening diseases like cancer and will be helpful in treatments of the future.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Dr Sam Orange, Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at Newcastle University, said, "Previous scientific evidence suggests that more exercise is better for reducing bowel cancer risk as the more physical activity people do, the lower their chances of getting it. Our findings support this idea.

When exercise is repeated multiple times each week over an extended period, cancer-fighting substances like IL-6 released into the bloodstream have the opportunity to interact with abnormal cells, repairing their DNA and reducing growth into cancer."

As part of the study, the team from Newcastle and York St John universities worked with 16 men aged 50-80, all of whom were at risk for bowel cancer, like being overweight/obese and not physically active.

After providing an initial blood sample, the participants cycled on indoor bikes for a total of 30-minutes at a moderate intensity and a second blood sample was taken as soon as they finished pedaling.

As a precautionary measure, on a separate day, scientists took further blood samples before and after the participants had rested. Tests were also carried out to see if the exercise changed the concentration of cancer-fighting proteins in the blood in compared to resting samples. The studies revealed that there was an increase in IL-6 protein.

Scientists added the blood samples to bowel cancer cells in a lab and monitored cell growth over 48 hours. They identified that blood samples collected straight after exercise slowed the growth of the cancer cells compared to those collected when there was no physical activity.

In addition to reducing cancer growth, the exercise blood samples brought down the extent of DNA damage, showing that physical activity can repair cells to create a genetically stable cell type.

Dr Orange said, "Our findings are really exciting because they reveal a newly identified mechanism underlying how physical activity reduces bowel cancer risk that is not dependent on weight loss. Physical activity of any type, and any duration, can improve health and reduce bowel cancer risk but more is always better. People who are sedentary should begin by moving more and look to build physical activity into their daily routines."

According to research, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 11 percent of all new cancer cases. There are around 42,900 people diagnosed in the UK every year with bowel cancer, which translates to nearly 120 each day.

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