Many people probably know that carrying too much weight around isn’t good for your heart, but did you know that it’s a major risk factor for women's cancer as well? Obesity is the culprit behind some 14% of cancer deaths, and more than 3% of new cancer cases, every year.
“Our No. 1 recommendation for cancer risk reduction is to stay as lean as possible within a healthy weight range. This may be one of the most important ways to prevent cancer,” says Alice Bender, MS, RD, manager of nutrition communications at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
In November 2007, the AICR put out an expert report summarizing how food, nutrition, and physical activity affect cancer and cancer prevention. Being overweight, according to the AICR report, is linked to a wide variety of cancers, including esophageal, pancreatic, gall bladder, breast, endometrial, and kidney cancers.
Fatty tissue in women who are overweight produces additional estrogen, a sex hormone which can increase the risk of uterine cancer. This risk increases with an increase in body mass index (BMI; the ratio of a person's weight and height). About 40% of cases are linked to obesity.
It seems fair and just that conscientiously working out should confer disease-fighting benefits, especially against women's cancer, and an accreting body of research suggests that under certain conditions and against certain forms of cancer, fitness may be remarkably protective. A major review article published in February on the Web site of the British Journal of Cancer synthesized the results of more than two decades’ worth of studies and concluded that the most active people are 24 percent less likely to develop uterine cancer than sedentary people are, regardless of their diets, smoking habits or body weight. Another study, this one presented in May at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine reported that women over age 30 who defined themselves as “highly competitive” by disposition and who exercised more than the average for the group had much less risk of developing breast cancer than women who worked out for less than 60 minutes per week.
Different factors cause different types of cancer. Researchers continue to look into what factors cause this type of cancer. Although there is no proven way to completely prevent this disease, you may be able to lower your risk. Talk with your doctor for more information about your personal risk of cancer.
Research has shown that certain factors can lower the risk of uterine cancer:
- Taking birth
control pills, especially over a long period of time
- Considering the risk of uterine cancer before starting HRT,
especially estrogen replacement therapy alone. Using a combination
approach to HRT may help lessen risk.
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- If diabetic, maintaining good disease control such as
regularly monitoring blood
Along with a healthy diet and lifestyle choices, regular exercise is one of the best things women can do to keep the risk of a first-time women's cancer or recurrence as low as it can be. This study adds to other research suggesting that regular exercise reduces breast cancer risk. Regular exercise also helps keep your physical and mental health in top shape. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late or too soon to get moving. And once you do start, keep at it!