Health & wellbeing

Exercise has been found to increase the number of defense cells in cancer patients, according to two studies conducted at the national PET center at the University of Turku. The studies aimed to investigate the effects of short-term exercise on the immune system of lymphoma and breast cancer patients who had recently been diagnosed and had not started treatment yet.

During the study, patients cycled for ten minutes, and blood samples were taken before and after the exercise. The study found that even a short bout of exercise increased the number of defense cells in the patients' bloodstream. The defense cells can enter the area of the tumor more efficiently and are more active in destroying cancer cells.

The relationship between exercise and cancer has been the subject of many studies, and researchers have found that exercise can reduce the risk of cancer and improve the quality of life of cancer patients. However, the mechanism through which exercise influences cancer is not fully understood. Tiia Koivula, a biomedical science researcher, says that exercise can even improve cancer prognosis.

The studies conducted by Koivula are part of a broader project supported by the Academy of Finland and the Hospital District of Southwest Finland, where the effects of exercise on cancer are being investigated. The project aims to establish whether exercise can be used as a complementary treatment for cancer patients.

In the study, the exercise intensity was individually determined so that it corresponded to light or moderate exercise. The important thing was that the patients could cycle for ten minutes continuously without exhaustion, and that the heart rate increased slightly from the resting state. Blood samples were analyzed for various types of defense cells, and the post-exercise levels were compared to resting levels.

The results showed that lymphoma patients had an increase in the number of killer T-cells and natural killer cells in their bloodstream during exercise. In breast cancer patients, exercise increased the total number of white blood cells, as well as intermediate monocytes and B-cells. The changes were rapid, and in most cases, the number of defense cells returned to resting levels within 30 minutes after exercise.

The findings of these studies provide evidence that even a short bout of exercise can have a positive effect on cancer patients' immune systems. These results support the idea that exercise could be a valuable complementary therapy for cancer patients. The study's limitations include the small sample size and the fact that it only measured the effects of one exercise session. Future studies should investigate the long-term effects of exercise on the immune system of cancer patients.