31 Oct 2011

Strenuous Exercise and "Muffin Tops"

What do strenuous exercise and muffin tops have in common?

Well?  A logical response to the question for this blog would be that they must have something to do with ovarian cancer.  Right.  For some reason or other, the Breast Cancer Awareness website decided to re-print a 2007 study presented by Australian researchers suggesting that exercise may actually increase women's risk for developing ovarian cancer.  What next?  Well, their theories are based on three premises:
  1. excessive physical activity causes decreased levels of estrogen in women
  2. consequently causing the pituitary gland to release more gonadotropin
  3. gonadotropin hormones are thought to stimulate an estrogen which causes excessive proliferation of ovarian cells.
In addition, they stated that strenuous exercise caused an increase in androgen levels which could play a role in ovarian cancer.  Their study followed 13,000 women from the ages of 27-75 over a period of 13 years.

Interestingly, the Nature Medicine research in the UK released news this week that they have discovered a protein that sends signals to ovarian cancer cells from fatty tissue known as the omentum.  For those of who need a more colloquial description of where this fatty tissue resides - think "muffin top".  Similarly, a University of Chicago team experimented by injecting healthy mice with ovarian cancer cells and found that the cells reached the omentum in less than 20 minutes.  Once there, the cells were found to change so that they could eat off this fatty tissue.  Dr. Kat Arney of Cancer Research UK said,  "These are important results because they suggest that fat cells in the stomach can fuel the spread of ovarian cancer, and point towards potential targets for the development of new treatments for the disease."

Ovarian cancer spread to the omentum means the difference between the disease stage being a Stage 1 or Stage 3.  Stage 1 means that the cancer cells have not spread beyond the ovary and has a very high cure rate. At Stage 3, disease has reached the omentum and possibly elsewhere and carries statistically grim five-year survival rates of less than 40%.
You can see where I'm heading with this... into the land of "damned if you do and damned if you don't".  I suppose the answer is moderation.

If all of this gives you a headache,  a recent review in the British Journal of Cancer (British Journal of Cancer (2011) 105, 1107 – 1113) suggests that two 325mg pills of Aspirin a day may be of use in the adjuvant setting to treat cancer.  I agree.

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