Effects of physical activity on cancer prevention

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2011 Jul;1229:176-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06105.x.


Results of most epidemiological and laboratory studies suggest an inverse relationship between regular exercise and the risk of certain malignancies, such as intestinal, colon, pancreatic, breast, lung, skin, mammary, endometrial, and prostate cancer. However, physical activity can have different influence on carcinogenesis, depending on energy supply and the age of the subject as well as strength, frequency, and length of exercise. The biochemical and molecular basis of the interaction between aerobic physical activity and tumorigenic processes remains poorly understood. Physical activity may generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) to a different extent. Mild oxidative stress caused by moderate physical activity can activate cellular stress response signaling and potentiate cellular antioxidant defense capacity. However, accumulation of relatively large amounts of ROS as a consequence of exhaustive exercise can either directly damage DNA, causing mutation, or promote tumorigenesis by activating proinflammatory signaling. This review highlights the effects of physical activity on various malignancies in the context of redox status modulated during exercise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Reactive Oxygen Species