Voluntary exercise and experimental mammary cancer

Adv Exp Med Biol. 1992:322:41-59. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4684-7953-9_5.


The results of these studies indicate that voluntary activity suppresses the development of chemically and virally induced primary mammary tumors in rats and mice fed high-fat diets. These diets were chosen to mimic the current U.S. fat consumption of approximately 40% of calories as fat. It remains to be seen if activity exerts a similar suppressive effect on animals fed their customary low-fat diet (10% calories as fat). In general, the activity profiles of the female Fischer F-344 and Sprague-Dawley rat and the C3H/o mu j mouse exhibited a similar pattern with an early peak followed by a gradual plateau over time. The effects of activity on body fat composition showed a trend toward a decreased percent of body fat when compared to sedentary animals but a statistically significant decrease was found only in the F-344 female rat. In the DMBA model, carcinogen dose did alter outcome parameters. For example, time to first tumor was extended under low- but not high-DMBA conditions, and, conversely, tumor multiplicity was significantly decreased in the high- but not low-DMBA group. In the NMU model, an inverse association was found between the amount of activity and tumor incidence. A similar association was not found with the DMBA model. The reason for this is uncertain, but further analysis in terms of other parameters such as total tumor number may shed more light on this discrepancy. The suppressive effect of activity on the MMTV-induced mouse mammary tumor is of particular interest since it raises the possibility that activity may exert effects on the process of provirus insertion, and/or oncogene activation--an area of great potential promise in cancer prevention. Activity appeared to enhance the volume and to a lesser degree the number of metastatic foci in the lungs of F-344 retired breeders under high-fat but not medium-fat conditions. In addition, the most active animals in the high-fat group exhibited the greatest volume of metastases. These results, together with those in the NMU model, point to the critical importance of the quantity of voluntary activity an animal engages in and its relation to both primary and secondary cancer prevention. They imply that beyond a certain point of either frequency or intensity, the beneficial effect of exercise may be nullified by competing deleterious effects. The metastases study has also brought to light the importance of dietary fat as a potential intervening variable.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 9,10-Dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene
  • Animals
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / physiopathology*
  • Methylnitrosourea
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Volition


  • 9,10-Dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene
  • Methylnitrosourea