Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cancer: What your weight and exercise has to do with it.


                                            THE SOBERING STATISTICS

   Cancer does not discriminate. It effects the very young to the very old. No one is immune from the possibility of developing it at some point in their lifetime. The average age of diagnosis is over 55 and the risk of contracting cancer increases with age.  Our current lifetime risk of either contracting or dying of cancer is 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women.
   There are currently 12 million Cancers survivors (people who are being treated and those who are finished with treatment) living in the United States today.  About 1,596,670 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2011 and about 571,950 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year, which figures out to be more than 1,500 people a day. Although researchers are making great strides in the fight against Cancer, there is still a long way to go until there is a cure.
                                                  PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

    New evidence is showing that 1/3 of our yearly 550,000 cancer deaths could be avoided if Americans maintained a healthy weight, engaged in daily exercise and ate a healthy diet. Very strong evidence is now available showing that being overweight/obese also increases your risk of cancer recurrence and mortality after you have been treated for it. In other words, if you are diagnosed with Cancer, losing weight  and becoming or staying physically active is extremely important to help you live a long and healthy life. For women, the risk of death from all cancers increases 88% if their BMI is >40. For men, their risk of death from all cancers increase 52% when their BMI is > 40.

  Click here to find out what your BMI is.

The American Cancer Society's nutritional guidelines for cancer prevention are the same recommendations that have been issued to decrease people's chances of contracting  other diseases, such as Cardiac Disease, Hypertension and Diabetes:
 Most importantly:
Eat foods and have your total daily calories at a level that will allow you to maintain (or lose weight to get to) a healthy BMI of <25.

 General Guidelines:

  Eat a diet that is mostly plant based.
  Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  Eat whole foods, not processed foods.
  Eat whole grains instead of processed (refined) grains.
  Limit consumption of processed and red meats.
  Eat lean protein.
  Avoid fried foods and foods with saturated fat.
  Drink plenty of water
  Limit or avoid alcohol.
     The American Cancer Society's statement on alcohol:
   "Alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast. For each of these cancers, risk increases substantially with the intake of more than two drinks per day. Even a few drinks per week may be associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer in women. The way alcohol increases the risk for cancer isn't 100 percent certain but the theory is that it may be due to alcohol-induced increases in circulating estrogen or other hormones in the blood, reduction of folic acid levels, or a direct effect of alcohol or its metabolites on breast tissue. If you have a high risk of breast cancer you might not want to drink any alcohol at all." 

 Engaging in daily physical activity is believed to reduce cancer risk by helping to maintain a healthy weight and by decreasing circulating hormones such as estrogen, insulin and insulin like growth factors. Physical activity after treatment, can decrease your risk of recurrence and dying of cancer. It can also give survivors a better quality of life, by helping them regain strength they may have lost during treatment.

 The American Cancer Society's recommendations for Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention:
     Adults should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, above their usual activities, on 5 or more days of the week.
    *45 to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity are preferable for disease prevention.
    *Strength train 2 times a week to increase muscle strength and maintain weight loss. Strength training has also been shown to aid people undergoing cancer treatment. It allows them to tolerate the physical demands of chemotherapy, better than those who didn't strength train previously.
    * Vigorous exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer

                                                  A MAGIC BULLET?
          No, unfortunately there is no magic bullet. Despite all of the positive ways physical activity and weight management can help decrease our risk for Cancer, get through the treatment and live well after it, there is no guarantee it will prevent it from every occurring. As we know, there are many very healthy, athletic people that have had Cancer. Even professional athletes such as Mike Lowell, Bill Rodgers, Grete Waitz, Scott Hamilton and most famously Lance Armstrong, all  have had cancer, despite their superior level of physical fitness. 
  Therefore, it is very important to remember that if you do get Cancer, it isn't because you didn't do everything right. It isn't because you didn't eat all the right foods or because you spent a few years not exercising enough.
                      There is no blame. Cancer is still a mystery. Cancer sucks.
  However....despite the unpredictability of Cancer, more and more studies indicate that regular exercise and eating a healthy diet can help prevent many types of Cancer. Strong evidence also shows this healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of dying from Cancer after an initial diagnosis. There are many risk factors for Cancer that are beyond our control such as; age, genetics and environmental factors, but there are things we have know for a while that we can do such as,  stop smoking and wear sun protection.
   Now we also know that getting down to and maintaining a healthy weight, exercising at least 5 days a week and eating a healthy diet can help prevent cancer.

 Having this information is about empowerment!  Until there is a cure, let's not give up without a fight!

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month I will be blogging all October about different aspects of exercise and nutrition and their role in the fight against Cancer.

Here are some great websites that have more Cancer prevention and wellness information .
American Cancer Society
Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
The National Lymphedema Network

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