Aging is a complex physiological process that leads to the progressive decline of metabolic and immune function, among other biological mechanisms. As global life expectancy increases, it is important to understand determinants of healthy aging—including environmental and genetic factors—and thus slow the onset or progression of age-related disease. Environmental enrichment (EE) is a housing environment wherein laboratory animals engage with complex physical and social stimulation. EE is a prime model to understand environmental influences on aging dynamics, as it confers an antiobesity and anticancer phenotype that has been implicated in healthy aging and health span extension. Although EE is frequently used to study malignancies in young mice, fewer studies characterize EE-cancer outcomes in older mice. Here, we used young (3-month-old) and aged (14-month-old) female C57BL/6 mice to determine whether EE would be able to mitigate age-related deficiencies in metabolic function and thus alter Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) growth. Overall, EE improved metabolic function, resulting in reduced fat mass, increased lean mass, and improved glycemic processing; many of these effects were stronger in the aged cohort than in the young cohort, indicating an age-driven effect on metabolic responses. In the aged-EE cohort, subcutaneously implanted LLC tumor growth was inhibited and tumors exhibited alterations in various markers of apoptosis, proliferation, angiogenesis, inflammation, and malignancy. These results validate EE as an anticancer model in aged mice and underscore the importance of understanding environmental influences on cancer malignancy in aged populations.
Environmental enrichment (EE) serves as a model of complex physical and social stimulation. This study validates EE as an anticancer intervention paradigm in aged mice and underscores the importance of understanding environmental influences on cancer malignancy in aged populations.