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Regular exercise could reduce risk for liver cancer

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Yet another reason to get out there and exercise – research shows that regular physical activity can reduce the chance of developing the most common type of liver cancer.

Hepatocellular carcinoma accounts for most liver cancers. It is usually seen in people age 50 or older and occurs more often in men than women. Worldwide, it is the fifth most common cause of cancer in men and the eight most common cancer in women.

In most cases, the cause of liver cancer is scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). In the United States, this most often occurs due to alcohol abuse, but chronic inflammation can also be a contributing cause. Exercise may help reduce inflammation throughout the body, leading to a reduced risk of disease.

Researchers presenting at the International Liver Congress introduced animal data showing that in laboratory mice, regular exercise could reduce the risk of tumors by about 30%. Exercise reduced the incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a term used to describe the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who do not drink. NAFLD is a common cause of inflammation and scarring of the liver which can lead to liver failure if not treated.

Cardiovascular exercise appeared to be the most protective. The mice ran on a motorized treadmill for 60 minutes a day, five days a week for 32 weeks. Most health experts suggest that exercise is protective when we participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Other tips for preventing NAFLD include losing weight, eating a healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat, and controlling co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol.

Prof. Dufour, lead researcher, concludes: "The results could eventually lead to some very tangible benefits for people staring down the barrel of liver cancer and I look forward to seeing human studies in this important area in the future. The prognosis for liver cancer patients is often bleak as only a proportion of patients are suitable for potentially curative treatments so any kind of positive news in this arena is warmly welcomed."

Reference:
1 A.C Piguet, EFFECT OF REGULAR TRAINING ON HEPATOCELLULAR CARCINOMA DEVELOPMENT IN HEPATOCYTE-SPECIFIC PTEN-DEFICIENT MICE. Abstract presented at the International Liver CongressTM 2013

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