Vanity is the chief motivation for many women who work out seven days a week.
But if leveraging our personal foibles is what it takes to help us avoid breast cancer, we’re prepared to be vain.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we all need to find the personal motivation to increase physical activity to reduce our risk of disease — whether it’s treating ourselves to a new workout outfit or treating our spouse to a pricey package of Soul Cycle classes. The peace of mind is priceless.
Dr. Lisa Benya, founder of CURE Malibu Medical, a concierge medical practice, wants patients to understand why exercise is beneficial if they’re particularly at risk.
“The biggest thing that exercise does is work on the immune system from many levels.”
“The biggest thing that exercise does is work on the immune system from many levels,” Benya told LifeZette, “from blood circulation, to endorphins, to enabling your body to pull the nutrients out of food, which supports the immune system, which in turn helps you fight cancer.”
She cites research showing that exercising at least six hours a week could slash your breast cancer risk by 27 percent.
One study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention found that among 16,000 women in all stages of life, those who engaged in vigorous physical activity most days of the week significantly lowered their risk of invasive breast cancer.
While these results applied only to women without a family history of the disease, other studies have taken inventory of the breast health benefits of exercise, both in prevention and survival.
Exercising at least six hours a week could slash your breast cancer risk by 27 percent.
Regular workouts help women maintain a healthy weight — a key factor in fighting breast cancer.
Many women are already aware that being overweight raises the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place, but Harvard research has found that those extra pounds may also lower survival rates.
Researchers examined data from 5,204 women from the Nurses’ Health Study over a 24-year period and found that nonsmoking women who were overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis were about twice as likely to die of the disease compared to their leaner peers.
Researchers speculate that fat tissue produces a small amount of estrogen, which in turn can speed the growth of some types of breast tumors.
“No one knows with complete certainty how to prevent breast cancer,” Benya said. “The statistics aren’t pinpointing a clear reason why one person gets breast cancer and another doesn’t — other than genetics.”
The good news is that weight management, unlike family history, is a risk factor within women’s control.
“So what women — as well as men, because let’s not forget men also can get breast cancer — is to make sure they’re as healthy as possible to fight it off,” Benya said.
Maintaining a healthy weight means making careful food choices. The anti-cancer superfoods below are not only low in calories, they’re packed with powerful nutrients  that have possible anti-breast cancer effects.
Cauliflower: Contains compounds that may suppress breast cancer cell growth and even promote cancer cell death, according to Italian researchers.
Cabbage: Many previous studies have shown that indole-3-carbinol (I3C), abundant in cabbage, may reduce levels of harmful estrogens that can promote cancer growth in hormone-sensitive cells, such as breast cells.
Apple: A study from Cornell University found that some breast cancer tumors were reduced in rats fed what for humans would be the equivalent of an apple a day.
Broccoli: Contains compounds that may disrupt the growth of breast cancer cells.
Cranberry: Regular consumption of cranberry products may inhibit the development of breast cancer in mice, Canadian researchers have found.
Tomato: Israeli researchers found the synergistic combination of tomato phytonutrients may suppress breast cancer cell growth.
This article was originally created by the Dole Nutrition Institute, with additions and updates by LifeZette.