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Exercise Unlikely to Prevent Mesothelioma Development

prevent mesothelioma development

A new Australian study suggests that exercise is unlikely to prevent mesothelioma development in people who have been exposed to asbestos.

The study focused on asbestos-exposed mice. Asbestos cancer can take decades to develop. Researchers thought the long latency period might offer an opportunity to prevent mesothelioma development with physical activity.  

But even mice that had no mesothelioma symptoms were less likely than mice their same age to be physically active.

How Mesothelioma Develops Over Time

Malignant mesothelioma has one of the longest latency periods of any cancer. The latency period is the time between exposure to a carcinogen and development of the disease.

Scientists know that asbestos can cause mesothelioma. But they have not found a way to prevent mesothelioma development in asbestos exposed people. 

Part of the problem is that there is no way to tell which people will get the disease and which will not. Some people do not even realize they had asbestos exposure until they develop mesothelioma symptoms. 

Research suggests that exercise might help ward off cancer. Physical activity triggers all kinds of positive changes in the body. Some of these changes may be protective. 

Asbestos-exposed people could have decades before they get sick. The Australian research team thought this might allow them to delay or prevent mesothelioma development with exercise. But the results in mice suggest it does not work. 

Searching for a Way to Prevent Mesothelioma Development

Australia was once the world’s top supplier of asbestos. Today, the country has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. Researchers there are very invested in ways to prevent mesothelioma development. 

The new study used asbestos-exposed mice and mice with no exposure. Both groups had plenty of opportunity to run around and be active. Researchers monitored their health over time.  

Voluntary exercise did not prevent mesothelioma development in asbestos-exposed mice. But the exposed mice slowed down more than non-exposed mice, even before they had any symptoms. 

These results suggest that mesothelioma might be affecting the body earlier than doctors realize. If that is true, it could mean some mesothelioma prevention research is inaccurate.

“These data highlight…the potential limitation that some preclinical studies may not accurately represent the clinical paradigm, particularly in the context of prevention studies,” write the authors. 

Exercise might not prevent mesothelioma development. But multiple studies show that patients who stay physically active are stronger and have better treatment outcomes


Fisher, S, et al,  “Voluntary exercise in mesothelioma: effects on tumour growth and treatment response in a murine model”, September 15, 2020, BMC Research Notes, https://bmcresnotes.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13104-020-05284-y

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