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Exercise Cuts Liver Cancer Risk in Mice

Update Date: Apr 26, 2013 07:19 AM EDT

Regular exercise may reduce a person's risk of developing liver cancer, according to a new study on mice.

Researchers say the latest findings may help patients at risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer.

The findings presented at the International Liver Congress 2013 in Amsterdam involved groups of mice given either a control diet or a high fat diet and put either in the exercise or sedentary group. Researchers said mice in the exercise groups ran on a motorized treadmill for 60 minutes a day, five days a week.

Researchers found that after 32 weeks, 71 percent of mice on the controlled diet developed tumors larger than 10mm compared to 100 percent of mice in the sedentary group.  The average number and volume of HCC tumors per liver was also reduced in the exercise group compared to the sedentary group.

Researchers said the study results indicated that regular exercise significantly lowered the risk of developing HCC.

Researcher Jean-Francois Dufour explained that exercise decreased the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in mice receiving a high-fat diet.

"We know that modern, unhealthy lifestyles predispose people to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which may lead to liver cancer; however it's been previously unknown whether regular exercise reduces the risk of developing HCC," Dufour said in a news release.

"This research is significant because it opens the door for further studies to prove that regular exercise can reduce the chance of people developing HCC," he added.

HCC is a cancer that originated in liver cells, and accounts of approximately 5.4 percent of all cancers worldwide.  HCC claims around 695,000 lives a year, and is the fifth most common cause of cancer in men and the eighth most common cause of cancer in women.

Researchers said the latest findings could benefit patients at risk for liver cancer including those suffering hepatitis, diabetes or alcohol dependency.

"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," Dufour said.

"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," he concluded.

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