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Healthy Living Can Prevent Breast Cancer

Research shows good nutrition and exercise can help prevent breast cancer. Here are some resources to help you stay healthy.

You might be able to find help fighting breast cancer and other types of cancers at your local grocery store and fitness centers, according to the research findings of Dr. Marian Neuhouser, Ph.D, RD. 

Dr. Neuhouser is a nutritional epidemiologist with a background in nutritional sciences. She is an investigator at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her research is focused on lifestyle factors such as nutrition and physical activity. Some factors may prevent breast and prostate cancer and improve survivorship in those diagnosed with cancer.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, more than 200,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 American women will die from the disease.

Dr. Neuhouser’s research has found that for postmenopausal women in particular, being overweight or obese may increase the risk for breast cancer.

Dr. Neuhouser explains, “After menopause, estrogens are synthesized by adipose tissue—the more adipose a woman has, the more estrogen she will make. Adipose cells also synthesize inflammatory factors, which have been linked to breast cancer.”

One of the most important things a woman at risk for breast cancer can do, says Dr. Neuhouser, is to “maintain a healthy weight."  

Given what the research indicates, Dr. Neuhouser says, “One of the most important things is that if a woman is overweight or obese, she should be advised to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Daily physical activity and following healthy eating habits with plentiful fruits and vegetables and minimal empty calories and fried foods will help achieve these goals.”

Dr. Neuhouser says while it can be challenging to lose weight, “Small changes can add up and make a big difference."

When it comes to getting active, Dr. Neuhouser says, "If someone is not used to physical activity, try a five to ten minute walk and gradually increase the time. Having physical activity partners or walking partners always helps. I know my soccer team will be waiting for me on the field, so even if I am tired or busy, I still show up."

The Fit Potato has several programs designed for anyone who wants to to start working out more. Personal trainers are available to help with beginners just wanting to delve into a more active lifestyle — this includes exercise programs, running help, or boot camps if you want more of a group setting. The website even has some core workouts you can try on your own at home.

Meetup.com and Fleet Feet are great resources for finding workout groups that fit your needs. The Meetup website boasts a variety of workout groups from walking, mom groups, 30 somethings, to beginners. The good thing about finding a group online to join is there is no commitment if you don't like it and you can join other groups. By joining a group, you also get the chance to explore different fitness activities minus the sign-up fees.

Fleet Feet in Pleasanton has weekly runs and walks with their group called the "Huffers and Puffers" during the week and welcomes all levels. This is a great way to get moving and the instructors are knowledgeable on the clothes and shoes you wear and how that affects your walking or running style. The runs/walk schedule is available online. 

When it comes to food, Dr. Neuhouser says, "Start with making one new food change each week. Instead of eating two cookies, eat just one.”

If you are concerned about your weight, Dr. Neuhouser suggests getting the support you need by asking your doctor for “ a referral to a reputable weight loss program.” For nutrition advice, Dr. Neuhouser recommends asking for a referral to a registered dietitian.

Locally, you can find support managing your weight through dieticians and nutritionists who can give you the tools to achieve your weight loss goals.

WeightWatchers is a program designed to help you maintain great eating habits and learn more about the food you eat over a consistent period of time. There are locations within the Tri-Valley and meetings that take place weekly as check ins for your progress. Although there are fees for joining the Weightwatchers program, the eating habits you'll learn will stay with you forever so the investment is ongoing.

Linda Michaelis is a registered dietician who services anyone living in Alameda County and beyond. She provides services such as health counseling, customized shopping lists, and eating plans. Having a personal nutritionist can be good if you have intitial questions and concerns about how to begin eating better and losing weight. Most of Linda's services are covered by your insurance.

Another local nutritionist, Jill Daniels uses methods like medical nutrition therapy, nutrition education, and the no-diet approach to weight loss. Daniels' personalized plans come with guidance, support, and accountability. She specializes in Weight Management, Sports Nutrition and Wellness/Healing/Prevention. She serves all areas within the Tri-Valley and has an additional office located at Velocity Sports Performance. More information on how she can help you improve your relationship with food, give you more energy, and manage your weight better, can be found on her website.

Californicated1 October 03, 2012 at 04:12 PM
There is one factor that seems to be forgotten in all this cancer discussion--the odds of getting it. The longer you live, the more likely you will get cancer. Instead of convincing people that they can "dodge a bullet", why not educate them on how to live with it when they encounter it? For instance, if you are male, you have a greater chance of getting and seeking treatment for Colon Cancer and Prostate Cancer if you are 70 years old or later. And once again, a "healthy life" may not prevent this, especially if there are genetic predispositions out there in your genetic code. As long as you have cells in your body that reproduce and genetic code that replicates, you will always have mutations and flaws out there that eventually become either unworkable or malignant to the rest of the body. We are not perfect creatures by any means, any more than any other animal on this planet. Instead of trying to fight cancer or even prevent it, because all this seems to be rooted in our genetic code by which every cell in our body is created, it would be better to recognize and learn to live with it, knowing that our end dates are nearer when these markers are present. As long as there have been living things on this planet, there have been mutations in their cells. Some of them have given species an evolutionary edge while others have proven to be malignant tumors. This is life on Planet Earth. Learn to live with that.
Dan Perez October 03, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Small, isolated cancerous mutations are believed to occur in everyone, every day that are eradicated by the body before they can continue to multiply. It is when the immune system for some reason fails to suppress it that cancer grows. While it is true that genetics plays a role in diseases like cancer, those genes have to be turned on by external factors, some of which we have control over. The field of epigenetics addresses this. Bruce Lipton, PhD is a Stanford genetic researcher who is a pioneer in this field. He has a book called The Biology of Belief. Here's the link to it: http://www.amazon.com/Biology-Belief-Unleashing-Consciousness-Miracles/dp/1401923127
David October 03, 2012 at 07:04 PM
The immune system weakens considerably after age 60. Furthermore, as you can imagine, since tumors are being constantly beaten back, they, like bacteria, "evolve" to evade the body's defenses. There is little evidence diet and exercise have much effect on the immune system. If it did, the relative risk factors posted above would be more tilted in favor of healthy-weight and healthy-eating people. They are not.
Dan Arnhem October 03, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I believe that heart disease still kills far more women than breast cancer. Each year about 400,000 women die of cardio vascular disease while about 40,000 die from breast cancer. Now, my point in mentioning this is that dietary changes can have a great impact on heart disease and its progression. I do not think that is in dispute. And since the dietary changes that are beneficial for heart disease are nearly indentical to those for breast cancer, then why not make the changes for both reasons. Thus, even if the dietary changes are relatively less effective for breast cancer, you are covering your bases and definitely helping yourself with regards to cardiovascular disease. You can't lose, and you might make a difference in both diseases. A win win, rather than a negative attitude about not making any change because you can't be certain it will specifically help with breast cancer.
Renae Wilber October 03, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Thank you Dan!!! I am unable to articulate what I have known and researched over the past year as well as you have, and I don't dismiss the strides that Stanford has made in cancer research. I urge anyone who doubts the importance of immune system health in fighting cancer to read Anti-Cancer by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD. He states "At the outposts of our defense system, our immune cells - including our NK cells - represent a powerful chemical armada that consistently nips cancers in the bud. All the facts bear out this conclusion; everything that strengthens our precious immune cells also impedes the growth of cancers...(with nutrition, physical exercise, and emotional balance)..."

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