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I wish I could say that I’m a skinny Minnie.  I’m not.  However, I am always looking at healthy ways to stay strong and lose some lbs.

Estrogen is a hormone that travels through our bloodstream and targets specific tissue types.  The breast and uterus are specific targets of estrogen which means increased estrogen plays a significant role in risk factors for breast cancer and uterine cancer.  Without getting too technical, estrogen—which plays a beneficial and important role in the body—may also be harmful by causing estrogen-induced cellular changes potentially leading to DNA damage (mutation) leading to an increased chance of developing breast or uterine cancer.

While there are numerous factors that cause increased risk of breast cancer (e.g., genetic risk factors, dense breast tissue, birth control pills, family history, etc.), an often overlooked and rarely discussed potential risk factor is being overweight, particularly in postmenopausal women. Researchers are still investigating how weight potentially impacts breast and other types of cancer. Current studies indicate that being overweight causes increased blood glucose levels (insulin) which have been associated with certain cancer types. Additionally, postmenopausal women may have increased fat tissue which causes increased estrogen production since the ovaries no longer produce estrogen after menopause.

View an infographic on the link between obesity and cancer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO):  http://www.cancer.net/sites/cancer.net/files/obesity_infographic.pdf

According to the Women’s Health Initiative Cohort Study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association “Women who engage in regular exercise have been shown to have a reduced risk of breast cancer.” Physical activity has also been shown to be effective at reducing mortality in breast cancer survivors.

Overweight as a risk factor for breast cancer?  Yes.  Regardless of gender, overweight also impacts the potential risk for the development of certain cancers in men, as well as other forms of cancer in women, as depicted in the ASCO infographic.  Yet another reason to sweat whether female or male.

Why is it everything always comes back to exercise?  Because exercise is the secret to good health.  We sit too much at work, at home, at restaurants, at movies, at baseball games and don’t get enough play and movement.

Not only does exercise help balance estrogen and testosterone levels, it also reduces cortisol, helps stabilize glucose levels, enhances immunity and aids with risk of infection.  Exercise increases our physical well-being while improving our cardiovascular and respiratory function.  It makes you feel good!

Some studies show that postmenopausal woman, who perform aerobic exercise four hours per week, can decrease breast cancer risk by 15 to 20 percent. Even exercising as little as one hour per week can decrease risk (certainly we can give up one to four hours a week!).  These benefits are even greater in premenopausal women.

Now that summer is here, grab a pair of sneakers, a pedometer/Fitbit, put a smile on your face and get to walking!  Strive to get those recommended 10,000 steps per day (Note:  A mile is roughly 2,000 steps).  Although 10,000 steps sounds like an awful lot it is only about 5 miles (depending on your stride).   Start by setting a goal to reach 2,000 steps per day, then 4,000 steps per day, then 5,000 steps per day, then 6,000 steps per day.  Or set a weekly goal.  Walk in your neighborhood, on the treadmill, at work on your lunch break, after work, at the gym, during commercial breaks, in the park, etc.  Or pop in a walking DVD or watch an app and walk at home.  Everyone can walk.

Try one of these links to get started:

14 Walking Workouts to Burn Fat and Boost Energy:

How Do I Start Walking for Exercise:

Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices (Steps) Program:

If walking isn’t your thing, play tennis, racquetball, basketball.  Go swimming. Lift.  Cross Fit.  Do whatever it is that you enjoy.

Move it.  Log it.  Do it.