Did you know in 2015 there will be an estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer? (3)
By now everybody knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This monthly campaign is meant to not only raise awareness about the disease but also to educate on steps for early detection and prevention. Leading a healthy lifestyle can help you reduce your risk of breast cancer. Although you cannot prevent cancer and there are certain risks that you cannot change like family history and age, there are some ways you can help reduce the modifiable risks. For example, stress and inactivity are modifiable risk factors. Let’s take a look at who is at risk for breast cancer and what your action plan may be for exercise.
The Hormonal Effect
Maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active go hand in hand. Being overweight or obese increases your chances of breast cancer, especially in post menopausal women due to the rise in hormones.
Which hormones are affected?
Estrogen: After menopause, most of your estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue can increase your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels.
Insulin: Women who are overweight tend to have higher levels of insulin. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer. (1)
Many studies conducted over the past 20 years show that an increase in physical activity is linked to lower breast cancer risk.
The difference in risk between the most active and the least active women is typically around 25%.
One study from the Women’s Health Initiative, as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman’s risk by 18%. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more. (2)
Studies have also found that exercise helps reduce the joint pain brought on by the hormone therapy given to some women after breast cancer surgery in order to reduce the risk of recurrence. Many women stop taking this type of medication due to the pain they experience. In this study, women who exercised were more likely to report a reduction in pain from moderate to mild. This also increased the likelihood that women would continue taking the hormones and increase their chance of a better prognosis. (5)
Here’s the plan
Walk, bike or jog for 150 minutes weekly. This can lower estrogen levels and help change the way estrogen is broken down and metabolized by the body. This is 30 minutes per day 5 times per week. Since there are 1440 minutes in a day, you can totally do this. There are ways to get activity in even if you feel you can’t designate 30 minutes at one time.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work
- Take short breaks at work or use your lunch break to take a walk around the building
- If you can’t miss a tv show, try to use a stationary bike or elliptical when watching instead of sitting on the couch
- Plan activities with family and friends other than sitting down for a meal. Go dancing, take a hike at a local park or arrange a fun softball game
Participate in a resistance training program. Resistance training boosts your metabolism, an energetic metabolism burns calories and burning calories efficiently helps keep your weight in check. It’s important to stay lean so you don’t carry excess fat tissue that could stimulate production of more estrogen in the body.
Eat smart. Experts suggest trying to eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruit and veggies daily and to choose poultry and fish over processed red meats.
Sometimes barriers happen because you don’t know how to get started or you don’t feel that you will have enough time to participate in a plan. Ultimately, anything is better than nothing.
Getting regular exercise is important to reducing the risks associated with breast cancer. Other benefits include reducing fatigue and depression. If you haven’t worked out in a while, start slowly and work your way up in intensity. If you have any questions on how to get started, contact us.
- “Five Ways to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk”. Accessed 23, September 2015. American Cancer Society. Cancer.org http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/features/five-ways-to-reduce-your-breast-cancer-risk
- “Get Moving To Help Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer”. Accessed 23, September 2015. American Cancer Society. Cancer.org. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/features/get-moving-to-help-reduce-your-risk-of-breast-cancer
- “Facts and Statistics”. Accessed 23, September 2015. Susan G. Komen. http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FactsandStatistics.html
- “Breast Cancer: Exercise an Important Part of Prevention. Accessed 23, September 2015. The American Council on Exercise. http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/3570/breast-cancer-exercise-important-part-of/
- “The Power of Exercise in Breast Cancer Survivors”. Accessed 24, September 2015. American Cancer Society. Cancer.org. http://www.cancer.org/research/acsresearchupdates/breastcancer/the-power-of-exercise-in-breast-cancer-survivors
- Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net