Structured Physical Exercise Reveals Anticancer Biomarkers

For the first time, microRNA biomarkers were found proving a direct correlation between a reduced rate of cancer and structured physical activity.

Oncotarget journal

Regular exercise doesn’t merely burn fat and build muscle to maintain a show-stopping physique. According to the World Health Organization, the lack of structured physical activity is a main risk factor in the diagnosis of breast and colon cancer, diabetes, and ischemic heart disease. In addition, at least two hours per week of structured physical activity has been found to significantly improve the prognosis for those already diagnosed with breast cancer.

A recent paper published in Oncotarget – a premier open-access scientific journal – details an important study identifying the particular mechanisms involved in producing the now scientifically proven anticancer benefits of structured physical activity.

The team chose to study the mechanisms responsible for the anticancer effects shown by structured physical exercise because previously the issue had not been well-investigated. This is the first time there has been direct evidence reported about structured physical exercise and its effects promoting cancer prevention.

What are MicroRNAs?

MicroRNAs are small molecules in the blood involved in the regulation of gene expression. With over 2,000 miRNAs discovered in humans, these mechanisms are responsible for regulating one-third of the genes in our genome. MiRNAs have numerous capabilities and may up- or down-regulate the quantity of cellular components in the body, such as proteins, based on their particular functions and varying instructions from the body.

Many miRNAs have multiple capabilities, and this study identifies which miRNAs are modulated by structured physical exercise and responsible for delivering anticancer benefits.

Structured Physical Exercise and Anticancer Benefits: The Study

The team’s study began by defining a structured physical exercise program consisting of a five-minute warm-up, a 45-minute walk on a treadmill at moderate intensity, and finally, a 10-minute cool-down phase.

In the randomized clinical trial, 30 female subjects were recruited and identified as Caucasian, healthy, residing in northwestern Italy, and between the ages of 54 and 78. To begin, participants completed a questionnaire which categorized 18 of the women as trained and physically active, and 12 as untrained and sedentary. After each of the participants completed the structured exercise training program, the team of researchers used comprehensive clinical trials to run an array of tests to evaluate the biological effects of structured physical exercise.

The team found 14 individual miRNAs that were either up- or down-regulated to express anticancer effects in the trained subjects after structured physical activity. Their study shows anticancer results including directly silencing oncogenes (cancer genes), lymph node activation, decreased cell proliferation, reduced blood glucose levels, reduced inflammation, increased mitochondrial function in skeletal muscles, promotion of natural cell death, and inhibited stem cell recruitment and drug resistance.

The study also found that gravity stimulation, which corresponded with physical activity, was responsible for inhibiting the potential growth of breast cancer cells.

Of the 12 untrained participants, no changes in blood glucose levels were detected after structured physical activity and overall, they displayed higher blood pressure than the subjects who were trained. In the untrained subjects who had higher blood pressure, structured exercise also caused a greater increase in heart rate in respect to the other subjects.


This study confirms and identifies the mechanistic basis behind regular structured exercise, its beneficial role in many diseases, and its contribution to reducing the onset and improving the prognosis of cancer.

The team hopes their findings will incite further exploration into the use of miRNAs as interventions to prevent and treat cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases.

Click here to read the full scientific paper, published in Oncotarget.

Oncotarget is a unique platform designed to house scientific studies in a journal format that is available for anyone to read – without a paywall making access more difficult. This means information that has the potential to benefit our societies from the inside out can be shared with friends, neighbors, colleagues and other researchers, far and wide.

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