February is National Heart Month. We are all wearing red to increase heart health awareness. What is good for the heart, is good for cancer prevention. You can reduce cancer recurrence by up to 40% by making this one simple lifestyle change!
We all know that exercise can help prevent heart disease. What’s equally true is that routine exercise can not only prevent cancer, but also help to prevent cancer recurrence. Exercise has proven to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, uterine cancer and possibly prostate cancer. Other major studies have shown that routine exercise can also reduce the risk of cancer recurrence once you have been cured of the disease. Major studies in breast cancer and colorectal cancer have shown that routine exercise can reduce the risk of recurrence by as much as 25-40%. Let’s look at breast cancer, specifically triple negative breast cancer, the most deadly form of the disease. A study published in January 2015 in the Journal of Cancer, showed that routine vigorous exercise can increase the levels of a hormone called Irisin. Irisin was shown to have 2 major effects. First, irisin decreases cancer cell movement, an essential component of metastasis or cancer spread. Second, irisin was shown to increase programmed cancer cell death or cancer cell suicide. These results were shown in the test tube, but may have profound effects for cancer patients.
Doctors say do “routine vigorous exercise”. Does that mean you need to run marathons to prevent cancer? I don’t think so. But I do know that 3-4 hours per week of exercise is better than 1-2 hours. I don’t know whether aerobic exercise is better than strength training for cancer prevention. So what do I tell my patients? I tell them to exercise 30-45 minutes each day for 6 days of the week. I recommend alternating “strength days” with “aerobic days”.
I practice what I preach. I take my dogs for long walks on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays; and do Pilates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It is never too late to start. At every age, at every stage of cancer prevention, or cancer survivorship; there are far reaching benefits. Keeping Cancer Away is one of them!