Exercise and Cancer
It is well known that hard work and exercise will stress the body and cause it to break down.
We use that principle to our advantage when we do strength training. We purposely break down our muscles which triggers the body to rebuild them, and in the process, make them a little bit stronger.
A recent study, however, gives something new to consider: Stress seems to give cancer cells a better chance of surviving radiation and chemo.
Govindasamy Ilangovan, lead author of an in vetro study published in Molecular Cancer Research (2010;8 , 1399-412) said “… timing is critical. It looks like any intense or prolonged activity a couple of days before start of cancer therapy is highly risky”.
While this study was not verified in living subjects, it does question our current belief that exercise is always appropriate.
Look… exercise can be a great stress reliever, and studies have shown the benefits of exercise for cancer patients. But this new study serves to remind us that our bodies have a finite amount of recuperative power. Remembering back to the first 30 days after surgery to remove my kidney, I lost 20 pounds as my body harvested both fat and muscle from itself to provide the energy needed for healing. And that was In spite of the fact that I was eating well.
I can only imagine that radiation and chemotherapy causes an enormous healing demand on the body. And if we add to that, the stress of exercise, our healing process may be compromised.
My advice to any cancer victim would be to be sure to bring up the subject of “exercise”, as part of the discussion you will have with your oncologist.