Health & Safety

October 11, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention: Are we what we eat?

Capt. Diane Ryan MS and RD
United States Army Medical Department Activity NTC and Fort Irwin

Research suggests that the typical American diet may be at least partly responsible for about 30 to 40 percent of all cancers. However, it is doubtful that diet alone is the “cause” or “cure” of cancer. There is no “magic bullet,” whether it is medicine, food, dietary supplements, or herbals, to prevent breast cancer. Although more research is needed, findings suggest that a healthy diet, a healthy weight, and physical activity can help reduce the risk of first-time or the recurrence of breast cancer.

What does healthy eating mean?

Mention the phrase “Healthy Eating” and people may conjure up visions of mounds and mounds of boring green lettuce – also known as, ‘”rabbit food.” Others may evoke feelings of deprivation, sugar and/or caffeine withdrawal, eating cardboard, or miniature servings of tasteless globs. In reality healthy eating simply means eating a variety of foods that provide the nutrients needed to maintain health, provide energy, and feelings of wellbeing. This variety includes protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and even water.

Healthy eating is important for everyone at every age. As stated above, there are no foods or diets that can absolutely prevent breast cancer. Having a history of breast cancer or undergoing treatment makes eating healthy especially important. Diet can affect the immune system, mood, and energy level. We really ARE what we eat!

What about body weight?

Some people may be tempted to believe that having those extra pounds will help prevent drastic weight loss if cancer treatment is initiated. Being overweight does not provide a cushion for treatment and may actually increase the risk of first-time and recurrent breast cancer. Fat cells produce the hormone estrogen. Some types of breast cancer can develop and grow faster because they respond to the excess estrogen in the body. Having extra fat storage around the belly may present a higher risk than those extra inches around the hips.

Getting older can slow down weight (fat) loss because we gradually lose muscle mass after the age of 30 years. Lean muscle is highly active and helps to burn calories as well as extra body fat. Building good lean muscle is an excellent way to start whittling down that waistline and increasing your chances for cancer prevention. Read on …

How does exercise help?

Because exercise is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle, the American Cancer Society recommends that women exercise regularly to reduce the risk of developing new cancers. Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, especially, should begin or continue with a regular exercise program. Three to five hours per week of exercise such as walking at an average pace can also improve quality of life and physical fitness.

Resistance exercises help to build strength and lean muscle mass, which can help strengthen bones, increase endurance and energy levels, improve balance and mobility, improve sleep patterns, decrease stress, and best of all – decrease excess body fat storage. Elastic exercise bands are an excellent choice for resistance training and are compact enough to carry in a purse or backpack.

Resource: www.breastcancer.org
For further information, contact the Weed Army Community Hospital Nutrition Care Division at 380-3176 to make an appointment.




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