egular exercise may reduce the risk of developing liver cancer, according to a first-of-its-kind study in mice.
The study carries hope for patients at risk from hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), researchers said.
HCC is a cancer originating in liver cells and accounts for approximately 5.4 per cent of all cancers worldwide, causing 695,000 deaths per year.
It is the fifth most common cause of cancer in men and the eighth most common cause in women.
In the study, researchers fed two groups of mice a control diet and a high fat diet and then divided them into separate exercise and sedentary groups. The exercise groups ran on a motorised treadmill for 60 minutes per day, five days a week.
After 32 weeks of regular exercise, 71 per cent of mice on the controlled diet developed tumours larger than 10mm versus 100 per cent in the sedentary group.
The mean number and volume of HCC tumours per liver was also reduced in the exercise group compared to the sedentary group.
European Association for the Study of the Liver's Educational Councillor Professor Jean-Francois Dufour said the data showed the significant benefit of regular exercise on the development of HCC.
Exercise decreased the level of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in mice receiving a high-fat diet.
"We know that modern, unhealthy lifestyles predispose people to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which may lead to liver cancer; however it's been previously unknown whether regular exercise reduces the risk of developing HCC," he said.
"This research is significant because it opens the door for further studies to prove that regular exercise can reduce the chance of people developing HCC," he added.
"The results could eventually lead to some very tangible benefits for people staring down the barrel of liver cancer and I look forward to seeing human studies in this important area in the future.
"The prognosis for liver cancer patients is often bleak as only a proportion of patients are suitable for potentially curative treatments so any kind of positive news in this arena is warmly welcomed," he said.
The study was presented at the International Liver Congress 2013, the 48th annual meeting of EASL in Amsterdam.