Authored by Revere Health

Cancer Prevention and Physical Activity

April 11, 2017 | Wellness Institute

In the past 50 years, the number of overweight people in the United States has doubled. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) reported that 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese. Excess weight can lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome and osteoarthritis.

Excess body fat can put one at risk for 11 different types of cancer, including:

  • Stomach Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Gallbladder Cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Advanced Prostate Cancer
  • Postmenopausal Breast Cancer

AICR estimates that 20% of cancers are related to obesity, which means that lowering your body fat is a one of the biggest steps you can take to lower your risk for cancer.

How Excess Body Fat Increases Your Risk for Cancer

Fat cells produce hormones that stimulate cell growth, and the more often these cells grow and divide, the chances of mutation increase, which can lead to cancer development. Fat tissues also produce proteins that can cause chronic conditions such as inflammation and insulin resistance. Those conditions, in turn, can promote cell growth, increasing risk for mutation and cancer development.

It’s important to realize that not all fats are created equal. The most dangerous type of fat is called visceral fat—found around the waist/abdomen—which produces cancer-promoting compounds.

Incorporating a healthy diet and physical activity can help you decrease your body fat, and lower your risk for chronic disease and cancer.

AICR reported that incorporating 30 minutes of moderate physical activity into your daily schedule reduces risk of cancer by:

  • Regulating insulin levels and hormones that can promote cancer growth
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Decreasing body fat
  • Promoting a healthy metabolism, which may reduce the time gut cells are exposed to possible cancer-causing compounds.

Boost Your Physical Activity:

Here are some suggestions to help implement more physical activity into your day:

  • Schedule activities: Be accountable to yourself, or exercise with a friend!
  • Make it count: Fit in a walk when you have free time before work, at lunch or when waiting for someone.
  • Add up activity or count steps: Start a timer each time you walk or do something active. You can also wear a pedometer or a fitness tracker to keep a record of your physical activity.
  • Be patient: Go at your own pace, and start adding physical activity gradually. As your endurance increases, you can increase your time.
  • Do what you enjoy! Make physical activity fun, otherwise it will be a drag and you’ll lose motivation.

Risks of Inactivity

According to AICR, emerging evidence has shown that sedentary time affects hormones and other factors related to cancer risk. The research reports that you are not protected against the risks even if you have an established workout routine, so it is important to work towards sitting less. Tips include:

  • Take the stairs.
  • Park your car farther away.
  • Take 2-10 minute breaks when watching TV/using the computer.
  • Set an alarm to remind you every hour to get up, stretch and move around.
  • Use part of your lunch break to either take a walk, exercise or stretch.
  • Stay hydrated! Drinking more water will have you heading to the bathroom more often.
  • Do housework and/or work in the garden.

Cassidy Silversmith graduated from Utah Valley University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education. In 2013, she went on to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). She currently works in the Wellness Department as a Wellness Assistant


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Cassidy Silver Smith

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.