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Cancers Grow Better in the Cold

Update Date: Nov 19, 2013 01:14 PM EST

With the start of the winter season approaching, temperatures will inevitably drop to extremely low numbers in certain regions of the world. When the cold sets in, people's metabolisms start to speed up to help with the task of keeping the body's temperature from dropping. Since the body is constantly working to keep it warm, it enters a thermal stress state in which the vital organs continue to work while other parts, such as cells, start to slow down. Based on the understanding of the effects of the cold, researchers set out to examine the relationship between the cold and cancer in rats. The researchers reported that in mice, at least, the cold could help cancer grow.

The research team composed of Elizabeth Repasky at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in the US and colleagues studied two groups of rats placed in two different environments. The first group of rats lived in a relatively cold environment with the temperature set around 71 degrees Fahrenheit. The other group of rats lived in a more comfortable environment with the temperature at 86 degrees.

The researchers found that the rats living in the colder environment had cancers that were more aggressive. Consequently, the cancers in this group developed faster than the cancers did in the rats living under warmer conditions. The researchers discovered that the T cells, which are in charge of recognizing and attacking tumor cells were a lot more efficient in the rats that lived in the warmer setting. The team found that cancers, such as skin, pancreas, colon and breast were all affected. The team also reported that the rats did not have to live under these conditions their entire life. The cold still affected their cancers.

Even though the study was conducted in rat models, the researchers believe that temperature could also play a huge factor in humans. However, more research would need to be done to determine if colder temperatures lead to more aggressive tumors in humans as well.

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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