Family history and aging can be risk factors when it comes to the manifestation of certain diseases. However, the study of epigenetics has revealed that certain genes predisposed to diseases can be turned on or off by external or environmental factors. This information is vital and empowering in preventing many diseases, such as breast cancer. One main way to prevent breast cancer is make exercise a lifestyle in order to achieve optimum health and wellness.
Physical Activity Reduces Breast Cancer Risk
According to the Europe PubMed Central journal, physical activity is associated with lower risk of developing certain specific cancers, in particular colon and breast cancers. For women, in particular, there is a 20-30% reduction in breast cancer risk compared with inactive women, says the report. “It also appears that 30-60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity is needed to decrease the risk of breast cancer.”
A number of studies, in particular the one documented in The New England Journal of Medicine, also suggest that the effect of physical activity may be different across levels of BMI, with the greatest benefit seen in lean women in the normal weight range. Women with body-mass index of <22.8 and who exercised at least four hours per week showed the lowest risk of breast cancer.
Biological Connection Between Physical Activity and Breast Cancer
The National Cancer Institute states that researchers have identified the following biological connection between exercise and breast cancer:
Exercise lowers hormone levels
Women with high levels of estrogen have increased risk of breast cancer. Exercise lowers blood estrogen. Older women are not exempt although estrogen levels begin to decrease as a woman enters menopause:
Exercise lowers insulin and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I)
Insulin has been identified as a cancer-promoting hormone. Insulin makes cells grow. Insulin resistance leads to increase of body fat. “As your body fat increases, so does an enzyme in your fat called aromatase. Aromatase turns hormones made in other organs in your bodies (such as your adrenal glands) into estrogen. That means your estrogen levels are raised even more, making your risk of breast cancer that much greater”, claims an article from Dr. Mark Hyman’s blog site entitled “Breast Cancer: How to Reduce your Risk Now”.
Exercise improves immune response
A journal article entitled “Exercise and Immune Function” by David Nieman and Bente Pendersen, documents that Regular exercise, such as a brisk walk almost every day will boost the immune system and reduce sick days by half.
Exercise assists with weight maintenance to avoid a high body and excess body fat
Food is energy. Any unused energy in the body will be stored as fat. Fat is, therefore, stored energy. Regular exercise helps to reduce body fat. A brisk walk not a leisurely walk everyday will do wonders for the body including the heart and lungs. Resistance training is also important in helping the body’s metabolism to be more efficient in burning calories.
Although not mentioned by The National Cancer Institute, exercise can also help alleviate stress in our bodies.
Exercise helps the body to be more adept in handling stress
Stress affects our lives greatly. It can trigger chemical changes in our bodies and “turn on” certain genes, which should remain dormant. However, with regular exercise and nutrition, we can control some of the negative effects of stress on our bodies and thereby help our bodies to remain healthy.
Knowing is not enough. It is important to also become a doer when it comes to your health and wellness. If you’re struggling to find time to exercise, short intervals of 20-30 minutes is better than nothing. Aim for consistency and small steps. Most of all, remember you are not alone. You have the help of the Holy Spirit who is only a prayer away. Pray and include God in ALL of your plans and you will succeed. It takes faith and fitness to achieve your health and wellness goals too!
Lee, IM, Physical activity and cancer prevention—data from epidemiologic studies. Europe PubMed Central, 35(11): 1823-1827 (2003).
Inger Thune, M.D. ET AL. Physical activity and the risk of breast cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine, 336: 1269-1275 (1997).
Nieman, D., ET AL. Exercise and the immune function. Sports Med, 27(2): 73-80 (1999).