Fitness Facts: Reducing breast cancer risk
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
According to the American Cancer Society, there are five ways to reduce your risk for breast cancer:
Watch your weight
Being overweight or obese increases breast cancer risk. This is especially true after menopause and for women who gain weight as adults. 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. Also, women who are overweight tend to have higher levels of insulin, another hormone. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.
Losing even a small amount of weight – for example, a half-pound a week – also can have other health benefits and is a good place to start.
Many studies have found that exercise is a breast-healthy habit. In 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.
The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. (Or a combination of both.) Moderate-intensity activities are at the level of a brisk walk that makes you breathe hard. And don’t cram it all into a single workout – spread it out over the week.
Limit time spent sitting
Evidence is growing that sitting time increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer, especially for women. In an American Cancer Society study, women who spent six hours or more a day sitting when not working had a 10 percent greater risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who sat less than three hours a day and an increased risk for other cancer types as well.
Research has shown that women who have two to five alcoholic drinks a day have about 1½ times the risk of breast cancer than women who don’t drink at all. Women who have one drink a day have a very small increase in risk. Excessive drinking increases the risk of other cancer types, too.
The American Cancer Society recommends women have no more than one alcoholic drink in a single day. A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
Avoid or limit hormone-replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was used more often in the past to help control night sweats, hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. But researchers now know that post-menopausal women who take a combination of estrogen and progestin might be more likely to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer risk appears to return to normal within five years after stopping the combination of hormones.
GCU supports breast cancer awareness! Here are some ways to do it:
Buy a shirt: T-shirts are being sold for $10 at the front desk on the third floor of Building 16.
Pray: That’s a given.
Place a name on the prayer wall: It’s in Howerton Hall (Building 19) and is dedicated to cancer fighters, survivors and their families and friends.
Walk with us: Get out there and exercise!