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The Takeaway: Rooney Retires from 60 Minutes; Body's 'Microenvironment' Can Halt or Encourage Cancer Cells
By Elizabeth Nolan Brown, October 3, 2011 09:09 AM
"I'd get on "60 Minutes" if I could and I'd do a piece every week, of my own. I'd write it and say it. And that's what I'd like to do best. And that's what I do."
There Goes The Neighborhood: Doctors have been saying for years that exercising and keeping in shape plays a role in warding off cancer, while cancer survivors who maintain a healthy weight and fitness routine are less likely to relapse. But recently, scientists have been coming closer to understanding why this is the case.
While exercise may not change the inner workings of a tumor cell, physical activity may change the cell's neighborhood - the surrounding tissue, blood vessels and immune cells - known as the "microenvironment," says Patricia Ganz, a breast cancer specialist at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
A healthy microenvironment makes it difficult for cancer cells to thrive. And, in particular, exercise helps prevent chronic inflammation-inflammation is the microenvironment equivalent of a bad neighborhood. You take a few bad cells and let them run amok of an inflamed neighborhood, and they're going to survive and spread. Don't want your body to become the kind of place where cancer cells want to put down roots? While exercise helps keep inflammation at bay, smoking, heavy drinking, being obese and eating processed foods encourage it.
Last week, rocker and cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge, 50, made headlines when she blamed her 'toxic' Western lifestyle and processed foods for causing her breast cancer. Doctors are quick to pinpoint that genetics, outer environment and other things all contribute to cancer development as well, and people with cancer shouldn't start thinking they caused the disease. But "the microenvironment, in some cases, may make the difference between a tiny little cancer that doesn't hurt you, and one that becomes a major danger to your life," cancer biologist Lynn Matrisian says.
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(Photo: CBS News)