Sperling Prostate Center

How Exercise Helps Defeat Prostate Cancer Using Myokines

If the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning had been an exercise coach, she might have penned this: “How does exercise help thee? Let me count the ways…” It would have to extend beyond a 14-line sonnet, because vigorous workouts have so many benefits it’s mind-boggling. But before you think I’m going to bore you by repeating what you already know, here’s one I bet you haven’t heard yet: myokines.

Myokines are part of a group of signaling proteins called cytokines. The Cleveland Clinic explains that cytokines are chemical messengers. Among other purposes, they communicate with the immune system, helping to activate its defenses against enemies from within or without. There are different types, and one of them is myokines.

Myokines are produced and released when you contract your muscles—specifically, the skeletal groups that move your bones. The more exercise, the better. “The amount of myokines secreted varies depending on the intensity, type, and duration of exercise.”[i] Thus, the harder, longer and more often you work those muscles, the more myokines become available. These tiny proteins, which can be measured in blood, have a myriad of wondrous effects that allow for “crosstalk” between your muscles and organs like the liver, gut, pancreas, brain and skin. “… [I]t has been identified that the biological roles of myokines include effects on, for example, cognition, lipid and glucose metabolism, browning of white fat, bone formation, endothelial cell function, hypertrophy, skin structure, and tumor growth.”[ii]

The anti-tumor effect of myokines is worth emphasizing for prostate cancer (PCa) patients. Myokines can influence the existence and activity of cancer cells, as well as control the inflammatory environment that indirectly supports cancer’s proliferation. In short, myokines are anti-cancer medicine produced by working out! On the other hand, lack of exercise impairs the myokine response.

A growing body of research supports lifestyle interventions as an adjunct to clinical cancer treatment. With regard to PCa, the Exercise Medicine Research Institute in Western Australia has identified the biochemical mechanisms by which myokines potentially thwart PCa tumors, even in cases of advanced disease. One study demonstrated that “… men with advanced prostate cancer who had undergone extensive cancer treatments retained the capacity to increase resting myokine levels in response to six months’ exercise training, and that myokines reduced growth of prostate cancer cell lines.”[iii]

So, now you can add another item to the list of reasons to NOT become a couch potato. You already know about cardiovascular wellness and weight management. As we say at the Sperling Prostate Center, What’s good for the heart is good for the prostate. Now get up, get going, and make more myokines!

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Huang Q, Wu M, Wu X, Zhang Y, Xia Y. Muscle-to-tumor crosstalk: The effect of exercise-induced myokine on cancer progression. Biochim Biophys Acta Rev Cancer. 2022 Sep;1877(5):188761.
[ii] Severinsen MCK, Pedersen BK. Muscle-Organ Crosstalk: The Emerging Roles of Myokines. Endocr Rev. 2020 Aug 1;41(4):594–609.
[iii] Fricker, Janet. “Exercise-stimulated myokine production can extend survival in advanced prostate cancer.” Cancer World, Jan. 9, 2023. https://cancerworld.net/exercise-myokine-production-survival-prostate-cancer/


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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