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The Effects of Exercise and Childhood Cancer Survivors

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Over the past 30 years, forward bounds in science and medicine have led to the recovery of an increasingly large number of people diagnosed with cancer. This fact is of no exception to the number of children diagnosed with cancer every year. However, with an increasing population of childhood cancer survivors, some highlight the importance of studying the potential long-term effects of treatment on these children. Dr. Donald Mabbott at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto most definitely supports this line of thought. By studying a group of childhood survivors treated for medulloblastomas, a type of brain cancer, Dr. Mabbott found that they displayed impaired aspects of learning and memory, as demonstrated by decreased scores on standardized neuropsychological tests. Most interestingly, these shortfalls were also associated with smaller brain areas responsible for these functions (Mabbott et al., 2006). By determining some of the long-term effects of childhood cancer treatment, Dr. Mabbott has made apparent the need to refine treatment methods—particularly radiation targeting the brain. Doing so will not only help reduce these long-term effects but will also help identify ways to recover these functions following cancer therapy.

This leads to the following question: is there anything that we can do to prevent these deficits in children following cancer therapy? In the past few years, exercise has been of particular interest within the field of research, including its effects in older adults—improving memory alongside increases in the size of associated brain regions—and its positive impact on functions such as memory, attention and learning. Borrowing from this idea, Dr. Mabbott is concluding a study that examines the effect of exercise on childhood cancer survivors of brain tumours. The aim is to identify methods that can be used to help reduce deficits experienced by childhood cancer survivors due to cancer therapy. If exercise does show to improve the brain’s development and its functions, there is promise to improve childhood cancer survivors’ quality of life.

Stayed tuned for more information about exercise and cancer, in our upcoming webcast! And hey, maybe get outside and go for a nice brisk run today. Your brain will thank you!

-Logan Richard, RIOT 





 




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