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Cancer Prevention with Exercise and Food Choices

Fight cancer with exercise.
Fight cancer with exercise.

Over the last 20 years, there have been numerous breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer. Patients are living longer, with better quality lives than ever before. What we haven't seen, is a decrease in the number of people diagnosed with cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.” Cancers from things like smoking have steadily gone down, while other risk factors have been driving the numbers up.

As a nation, we're drinking more than we should, eating more than we should and exercising less. Each of those behaviors puts us at greater risk of developing cancer, and the numbers are huge.

  • According to the National Cancer Institute, about 19,500 deaths every year in the United States can be directly linked to alcohol consumption. Those increased risks start at just 10 grams of alcohol a day, less than a standard glass of wine or beer. Unfortunately, your risk continues to increase for every additional 10 grams of alcohol you drink a day
  • A quarter of all pancreatic cancers, a third of all kidney cancers and fully half of all uterine and esophageal cancers are caused by too much fat. Overall, more than 30% of all cancer cases could be prevented if we just slimmed down.

  • The real surprise is what researchers discovered about exercise. A team of nearly 40 researchers from 17 international health groups got together and reviewed the findings of studies on exercise and cancer. They found that physically active people, can decrease their risk of being diagnosed with certain cancers by as much as 69 percent. The seven malignancies that exercise was especially potent at reducing include bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney and stomach cancers.

The amount of exercise recommended, even for people actively fighting cancer, was less than what the United States government suggest. You can see benefits from just three, moderate-intensity cardio sessions a week, for at least 30 minutes. That should be accompanied by at least two weight training sessions a week, also for a minimum of 30 minutes.

People who followed those exercise recommendations, saw tumor growth stalled or halted, improvements in physical functioning, quality of life, and cancer-related fatigue in several cancer survivor groups.”

Preventing cancer isn't just what you do TO your body, it's also about what you put INTO it. When researchers took a deeper look at diet and lung cancer, they found a surprising link.

Ten studies, involving approximately 1.44 million people from Asia, Europe and the United States were analyzed. Researchers found that people who ate more dietary fiber or yogurt, experienced fewer incidences of lung cancer.

Eating just three to four ounces of yogurt a day, led to a 19% reduction in lung cancer over people who ate no yogurt. Taking in 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day, led to a 17% reduction in lung cancer over people who ate 10 grams or less a day.

Combined, the effect was even more dramatic. The people with the highest fiber and yogurt intake, reduced their risk of lung cancer by a whopping 33% over those who consumed the least.

The reason why yogurt and fiber are so beneficial is still not fully understood. However, the senior author of the study, Dr. Xiao-Ou Shu of Vanderbilt University said, “inflammation plays a major role in lung cancer, and we know that the gut microbiome plays a major role in reducing inflammation. People who eat a lot of fiber and yogurt have a healthier microbiome.”

To make sure you're not taking in too many sugars from the yogurt, choose lower-sugar Greek yogurt and add fresh cut fruit on top to enhance the flavor. You can up your fiber with supplements, but adding more fiber-rich foods like oatmeal and higher fiber vegetables give you the added benefit of all the other nutrients those whole foods provide.

Reference Links:

Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors: Consensus Statement from International Multidisciplinary Roundtable

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, November 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 11 - p 2375-2390 doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002116

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Exercise is Medicine in Oncology: Engaging clinicians to help patients move through cancer

Kathryn H Schmitz, Anna M Campbell, Martijn M Stuiver, Bernadine M Pinto, Anna L Schwartz, G Stephen Morris, Jennifer A Ligibel, Andrea Cheville, Daniel A Galvao, Catherine M Alfano, Alpa V Patel, Trisha Hue, Lynn H Gerber, Robert Sallis, Niraj J Gusani, Nicole L Stout, Leighton Chan, Fiona Flowers, Colleen Doyle, Susan Helmrich, William Bain, Jonas Sokolof, Kerri M. Winters-Stone, Kristin L Campbell, and Charles E Matthews
CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, First published: 16 October 2019 https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21579

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American College of Sports Medicine roundtable on exercise guidelines for cancer survivors

Kathryn H Schmitz, Kerry S Courneya, Charles Matthews, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Daniel A Galvão, Bernardine M Pinto, Melinda L Irwin, Kathleen Y Wolin, Roanne J Segal, Alejandro Lucia, Carole M Schneider, Vivian E von Gruenigen, Anna L Schwartz
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2010 Jul;42(7):1409-26. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181e0c112.

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Association of Dietary Fiber and Yogurt Consumption With Lung Cancer Risk: A Pooled Analysis

Jae Jeong Yang, Danxia Yu, Yong-Bing Xiang, William Blot, Emily White, Kim Robien, Rashmi Sinha, Yikyung Park, Yumie Takata, DeAnn Lazovich, Yu-Tang Gao, Xuehong Zhang, Qing Lan, Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, Ingegerd Johansson, Rosario Tumino, Elio Riboli, Anne Tjønneland, Guri Skeie, J Ramón Quirós, Mattias Johansson, Stephanie A Smith-Warner, Wei Zheng, Xiao-Ou Shu
JAMA Oncology, 2020 Feb 1;6(2):e194107. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.4107. Epub 2020 Feb 13.

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Updated 2/24/2022