Exercise may improve the prognosis of prostate cancer patients by affecting blood vessels in their tumours, a study suggests.
Researchers found that men who walked at a fast pace before being diagnosed with the disease had tumours containing larger and more regularly shaped blood vessels.
Better formed tumour blood vessels may in turn inhibit cancer aggressiveness and promote better responses to treatments, the scientists believe.
Physically active men with prostate cancer have a lower risk of recurrence and death from the disease than those living sedentary lives, but until now the reason has remained a mystery.
The new study looked at 572 prostate cancer patients taking part in a US lifestyle and health investigation called the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
Men with the fastest walking pace – between 3.3 and five miles per hour – prior to diagnosis had 8 per cent more regularly shaped tumour blood vessels than the slowest walkers who ambled at 1.5 to 2.5 mph.
“Prior research has shown that men with prostate tumours containing more regularly shaped blood vessels have a more favourable prognosis compared with men with prostate tumours containing mostly irregularly shaped blood vessels,” said lead scientist Dr Erin Van Blarigan, from the University of California at San Francisco.
“In this study, we found that men who reported walking at a brisk pace had more regularly shaped blood vessels in their prostate tumors compared with men who reported walking at a less brisk pace.
“Our findings suggest a possible mechanism by which exercise may improve outcomes in men with prostate cancer. Although data from randomised, controlled trials are needed before we can conclude that exercise causes a change in vessel regularity or clinical outcomes in men with prostate cancer, our study supports the growing evidence of the benefits of exercise, such as brisk walking, for men with prostate cancer.”
Dr Matthew Hobbs, deputy director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Although this research provides a plausible explanation of how exercise might improve outcomes for men with prostate cancer, much more research is needed to confirm the impact of lifestyle factors on men’s recovery.
“We hope that further research in this area may one day give us a way to improve the prognosis for the 40,000 men in the UK who are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.”
Meanwhile a separate study suggest a good night’s sleep may also held the condition. Scientists have linked higher levels of the night-time hormone melatonin with a 75 per cent reduced risk of advanced disease.
Melatonin is produced in the dark at night. It plays a key role in regulating the body’s sleeping cycle and influences many other functions associated with the body’s 24-hour clock, or circadian rhythm.
Low levels of the hormone are typically associated with disrupted sleep.
Scientists studied 928 Icelandic men who were questioned about their sleep patterns.