Exercise, Java Aid Skin Cancer Fight

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Here's yet another reason to exercise and drink that low-fat latte. Being on the move inhibits skin cancer growth. It's like Mother Nature realized that being in the sun increases the risk so she built in a mechanism to slow down skin cancer growth. Plus, she knows we love our coffee.

A team at Rutgers University led by cancer researcher Allan Conney reports that exercise helps protect against skin cancer. Appearing in the journal Carcinogenesis: Integrative Cancer Research, the study found that mice exposed to ultraviolet light and with continual access to running wheels took longer to develop skin tumors and developed fewer and smaller tumors than a group of similarly exposed mice that didn't have access to workout equipment. While this is animal, not human, research, it was noted that exercise's cancer-inhibiting effect has been shown in humans relative to colon and breast cancers.

Of Mice and Men

Conney's research does point out that the running mice were leaner and therefore some of the effect may relate to fat levels. In follow-up research, he proposes a possible reason for the cancer reducing effect. Exercise enhances UVB-induced apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. Killing off the sun-damaged cells prevents them from morphing into cancer cells.

Want to add some more protection? Drink an espresso after your bout on the treadmill. Conney fed another group of running rats the equivalent of a couple of "cups of Joe" daily. Their level of skin cancer reduction was even better than the rats running without caffeine.

Don't Skimp on Other Protection

Be warned. This is no excuse to skip the sunscreen. Athletes spending prolonged time in the sun should to take heed from a study by Dr. Christina M. Ambros-Rudolph and colleagues from the Medical University of Graz in Austria. Results published in the November 2006 Archives of Dermatology indicated that marathon runners had a higher risk of skin cancer than a similar group of individuals who did not spend extended time outdoors.

The researchers write that although regular exercise is important to good health, there is evidence that high-intensity training leads to suppressed immune function, which lessens the body's ability to ward off cancer. However, sun exposure, according to Dr. Ambros-Rudolph, is the main contributor to skin cancer development. She adds that sunscreen and shielding clothing, which many of the studied athletes neglected, are the best lines of defense.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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