You might be able to find help fighting breast cancer and other types of cancers at your grocery store and fitness centers, according to the research findings of Dr. Marian Neuhouser, Ph.D, RD.
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 breast cancer.
Neuhouser’s research has found that for postmenopausal women in particular, being overweight or obese may increase the risk for breast cancer.
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 Neuhouser, is to “maintain a healthy weight."
Given what the research indicates, 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.”
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, Neuhouser says, "If someone is not used to physical activity, try a five- to 10-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 Lehigh Valley is blessed with many beautiful parks and trails that are ideal for walking with friends,including the Trexler Nature Preserve in North Whitehall, Louise B. Moore County Park in Lower Nazareth, and the Saucon Rail Trail in Hellertown, Lower Saucon and Upper Saucon townships.
In the Easton area, you can walk along the Karl Stirner Arts Trail, or the Delaware and Lehigh canals.
The Allentown Hiking Club hosts walks throughout the Lehigh Valley and beyond, including a hike at Glen Onoko Sunday and an Old Geezers' two-day backpack trip on Oct. 20-21. Club membership is $10 a year per person or $15 a year per family.
Health clubs also abound in the region, and most have group fitness classes, including LA Fitness, 24/7 Fitness clubs and Steel Fitness.
The Wildlands Conservancy put together a Walk for Wellness trail map that identifies trails in the region.
When it comes to food, 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, Neuhouser suggests getting the support you need by asking your doctor for “ a referral to a reputable weight loss program.” For nutrition advice, Neuhouser recommends asking for a referral to a registered dietitian.
Locally, you can find support managing your weight through weight loss programs and registered dieticians.