Exercise and eat well for cancer prevention
New research finds 3 out of 5 new cases of endometrial cancer could be prevented with better diet and exercise.
Maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of physical activity could help prevent more than half the new cases of a cancer that strike women.
And a cup of coffee wouldn’t hurt either.
Being an appropriate weight and exercising may significantly reduce a woman’s risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus).
Close to 50,000 cases of endometrial cancer will be diagnosed in 2013, according to estimates from the National Cancer Institute.
But three out of every five new cases of endometrial cancer in the U.S. could be prevented, according to a recent report published by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund International, Washington, D.C.
The report compared people with higher and lower weights. Those with the healthier weight have a lower risk for endometrial cancer, says Alice Bender, registered dietitian and nutrition communications manager for AICR.
Body fat may trigger the release of hormones that could promote cancer development, according to Bender.
The heavier you are the greater the potential for cancer.
“Yes, risk increases as body mass index [a measure of body fat based on height and weight] goes up,” writes Dr. Elisa Bandera, associate professor of epidemiology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
However, even if you’re not in shape now, you can shrink the possibility of developing endometrial cancer.
“Overweight women with a sedentary lifestyle can reduce their risk of endometrial cancer by losing weight and increasing their level of physical activity,” writes Dr. Bandera, who works with the cancer organizations issuing the report.
Exercise, in addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, is an independent protective factor against endometrial cancer, according to Bender.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, seven days a week.
What does that cup of java have to do with endometrial cancer?
Coffee, whether caffeinated or not, contains chlorogenic acid, a substance that has strong antioxidant properties, which may be beneficial.
“Coffee has so many different compounds in it. There may be other favorable factors as well,” Bender says.
The cancer organizations don’t have a recommendation on how much coffee you should consume to reduce your endometrial cancer risk.
Losing weight, however, is key.
“It’s never too early and it’s never too late to lose weight and get more exercise,” Bender says.
What you eat is just as important as consuming fewer calories. Sugary snacks and refined grains – a high-glycemic load diet– could undo the benefit of weight loss and physical activity.
“There is increasing evidence that diets high in glycemic load can increase endometrial cancer [risk], and this is independent of body mass index,” writes Dr. Bandera.
Sugary, starchy foods trigger your body to produce excess insulin, which promotes or stimulates cell growth.
“It promotes an environment for cancer,” Bender says.
Build your meals around whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and use common sense. Some foods that rank low on glycemic load charts aren’t high in sugar, but are packed with fat and calories.
“When we’re talking about glycemic load, it’s just one measure of healthy eating,” Bender says.
To see how your favorite foods measure for glycemic load, visit the website of the Harvard Medical School of Harvard University:
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