The microenvironment: “… an entirely new way of thinking about cancer”


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Mainstream media is slowly recognizing the importance of exercise in reducing chronic inflammation. On October 3rd, USA Today published the article Cells ‘neighborhood’ can help prevent breast cancer byLiz Szabo. The story featured Lu-Ann Doria in her fight with breast cancer, and, more broadly, presented exercise as an important tool in improving the cellular microenvironment of our tissues. The health of this microenvironment is crucial to keeping microscopic cancer cells, which are probably developing continuously, from becoming serious, and sometimes deadly, tumors.

Szabo, after interviewing William Li, MD, President & Medical Director of the Angiogenis Foundation, Lynn Matrisian, PhD, Professor and Chair of Cancer Biology at the Ingram-Vanderbilt Cancer Center, and Patricia Ganz, MD, medical oncologist at UCLA’s Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center, writes: 

  • “Exercise helps improve the neighborhood, keeping cancers in check.”
  • “Exercising, for example, sends out anti-inflammatory signals that make it harder for tumors to grow.”
  • “Failing to exercise – and putting on a lot of weight – damages the neighborhood, making it easier for cancers to wreak havoc.”
  • Exercise reduces inflammation by lowering “insulin and sex hormones such as estrogen that let tumor cells survive and spread” while “smoking, heavy drinking, being obese and eating processed foods all increase inflammation.”

According to Li,

"It's an entirely new way of thinking about cancer. The microenvironment actually protects us from cancer in ways we don't fully understand."

And, quoting Lynn Matrisian:

The microenvironment, in some cases, may make the difference between a tiny little cancer that doesn’t hurt you, and one that becomes a major danger to your life.

Exercise, like the anti-inflammatory Paleolithic diet, is a powerful tool for controlling inflammation, a component of many illnesses including cancer. Maybe its time to put down your computer or smartphone and go for a walk, a sprint, or enjoy another Paleo fitness activity. Maybe, I should too. 

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