Exercise may prevent liver cancer
Researchers have demonstrated in studies conducted on rats that regular exercise reduces the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. The study results were presented at the International Liver Congress 2013. Although it is a study made on laboratory animals, this research opens the way to other studies conducted on humans to prove that regular exercise reduces the risk of liver cancer.
The relationship between liver cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes has already been questioned in previous studies. It seems that patients with type 2 diabetes and poor control of circulating insulin are up to seven times more likely to develop liver cancer than the non-diabetics.
The researchers wanted to see if exercise is a protective factor for liver cancer and therefore conducted an experiment involving two groups of rats: one group was fed with the control diet and the other was fed with a high fat diet. Then the rats were divided into two groups: the exercise group ( 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week ) and the sedentary group. After 32 weeks of exercise, only 71% of rats in the controlled diet group developed tumors larger than 10 mm compared to those in the sedentary group, where all rats developed tumors. In addition, it was seen that the average number and tumor volume were lower in the exercise group compared to the sedentary group.
EASL’s Education Council Prof. Jean-Francois Dufour, said that exercise brings a significant benefit in preventing liver cancer. It was also found that exercise resulted in decreased levels of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats that were fed with high fat diet. Prof. Jean-Francois Dufour also said that modern unhealthy lifestyles predispose people to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which increases the risk of liver cancer. Statistics show that liver cancer is about 5% of all tumor types; it is the fifth most common cause of liver cancer in men and the eighth most common cause of cancer in women. 90% of liver cancers are hepatocellular carcinomas and the most common cause incriminated so far is cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is most often caused by chronic alcohol consumption and chronic infection with hepatitis C.
Liver cancer prognosis is low because often the tumor cannot be completely resected. In addition, symptoms related to liver cancer are nonspecific and patients see the doctor in advanced stages. This is one of the reasons that cirrhotic patients are monitored closely by a doctor (abdominal ultrasound every 6 months and measurement of serum levels of alpha fetoprotein).