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November 2012
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Physical Activity, Diet & Breast Cancer

Woman Working Out ImageAccording to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. While family history and age are major risk factors affecting a woman’s chances of developing this disease, research has shown that body weight, physical activity and diet can also play an important role in prevention. 

Research has shown that being overweight or obese can increase the chances for developing breast cancer, particularly in post-menopausal women.  Regular physical activity and a healthy diet can help a person maintain a normal body weight, and several studies have shown that women who participate in physical activity are at a decreased risk for developing breast cancer.1, 2 Even when accounting for the effect of weight loss, women who regularly exercise are still at a decreased risk for developing breast cancer.  The greatest benefit seems to come from moderate to vigorous aerobic type exercises.

Vitamin and mineral intake have also been found to influence risk of breast cancer. Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for our bodies, and recent research shows that they may also play a role in breast cancer prevention.3 Another study suggests that folate consumption actually could increase the chances for breast cancer, but no dose-response relationship was observed. Alcohol intake of as little as 3 to 6 drinks per week was observed to increase the risk for breast cancer as well.  However, the most consistent measure was the cumulative amount of alcohol consumed throughout life.  When total amount was controlled, binge drinking, and not frequency of drinking, was associated with a greater risk for breast cancer.5
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Cancer Fighting Foods ImageCancer Fighting Foods

It's widely accepted that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can reduce the risk of cancer and other illnesses. Plant based diets are typically low in fat and contain a wide variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants, which can offer protection against and fight cancers cells in the body.  Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that have the ability to protect and repair cells from free radical damage, and phytochemicals are thought to help prevent the formation of cancer by blocking carcinogens   There is much research currently underway exploring the effects of specific phytochemicals on the body.6

One of the most potent families of cancer fighting foods are cruciferous vegetables, which include bok choy, watercress, broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, radish, and cabbage.These have been shown to protect against many cancers including those of the mouth, kidney, esophagus, breasts and bladder.  Green tea has also gained a lot of popularity in recent years for its health benefits and cancer prevention properties. A study following thousands of Chinese women for over a decade showed that women who regularly drank green tea had a slightly lower risk for colon, stomach, and throat cancers, although researchers were not able to definitively attribute this directly to the tea consumption.8

According to the American Cancer Society, one in three deaths from cancer could be related to diet. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which could potentially prevent cancer, making a well-balanced diet vital to good health.
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ActiTrainer ImageResistance & aerobic training in men with prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the U.S.. Treatments typically include Androgen suppression therapy (AST) and radiotherapy, both of which can cause fatigue, decrease in physical function, and decrease in quality of life (QOL).   A regular exercise regime during treatment can help improve these symptoms and increase QOL measures. In a recent study on patients using only AST, subjects were grouped into either a usual care group or an aerobic and resistance exercise group for 12 weeks.  Compared to the usual care group, the exercise group showed an increase in lean body mass, and muscle strength, improved forward and backward walk times, better general health, reduced fatigue, and decreased levels of C-reactive proteins. 9

Another study on men undergoing radiotherapy (with or without AST) showed similar results.  The subjects were assigned to usual care, resistance exercise, or aerobic exercise for 24 weeks.  Both resistance and aerobic exercise decreased fatigue in the short-term.  Compared to the usual care group, resistance training improved QOL, aerobic fitness, upper- and lower-body strength, and triglycerides, while preventing an increase in body fat.  The aerobic group also improved aerobic fitness.10 Both forms of exercise can improve QOL and other important measurements, but resistance training may better help the specific side-effects that occur with prostate cancer treatments.
References:

1) Gonzalez CA, Riboli E.  Diet and cancer prevention: Contributions from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study.  European Journal of Cancer. 2010. 46(14): 2555.
2) Lynch MB, Neilson HK, Friedenreich CM. Physical activity and breast cancer prevention. Recent Results in Cancer Research. 2011. 186(1): 13.
3) Chen P, Hu P, Xie D, Qin Y, Wang F, Wang H.  Meta-analysis of Vitamin D, calcium and the prevention of breast cancer.  Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.  2010. 121(2): 469.
4) Stevens VL, McCullough ML, Sun J, Gapstur SM. Folate and other one-carbon metabolism–related nutrients and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010. 91(6): 1708.
5) Chen WY, Rosner B, Hankinson SE, Colditz GA, Willett WC.  Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2011. 306(17):1884.
6) The American Cancer Society. Phytochemicals. 2008. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/tre atmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/phytochemicals
7) Bosetti C, Filomeno M, Riso P, et al. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk in a network of case–control studies. Annals of Oncology. 2012. 23: 2198.
8) http://todayhealth.today.com/_news/2012/10/23/14652688-green-tea-appears-to-ward-off-some-cancers-in-women
9) Galvão DA, Taaffe DR, Spry N, Joseph D, Newton RU.  Combined resistance and aerobic exercise program reverses muscle loss in men undergoing androgen suppression therapy for prostate cancer without bone metastases: A randomized controlled trial.  Journal of Clinical Oncology.  2010. 28(2): 340.
10) Segal RJ, Reid RD, Courneya KS, Sigal RJ, Kenny GP, Prud'Homme DG,  et al.  Randomized controlled trial of resistance or aerobic exercise in men receiving Radiation therapy for prostate cancer.  Journal of Clinical Oncology.  2009.  27(3): 344.






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