Breast Cancer (Body Count – Part II)

As explained previously, different governments use the expression Body Count to update the public on the number of violent deaths that occurred because of war or military action. These reports may be given daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Since a number of deaths occur in North America because of unhealthy habits we want to remind the public how many people die daily, weekly, etc. due to engaging in these potentially dangerous risk factors (sedentary behavior, poor diet, smoking, etc.).

The Numbers
Lack of physical activity (or lack of exercise, if you prefer) is a major risk factor in breast cancer. Currently in North America (U.S. & Canada) lack of physical activity may cause as many as 1 in 4 breast cancer deaths.* Let’s translate that information to real Body Count deaths:

  • Annually, breast cancer claims 44,665 lives. Of these deaths, 12,417 are due to a lack of exercise.
  • Each month, breast cancer claims 3,722 lives. Of these deaths, 1,034 are due to a lack of exercise.
  • Every week, breast cancer claims 859 live. Of these deaths, 239 are due to a lack of exercise.
  • Every day, breast cancer claims 122 lives. Of these deaths, 34 are due to a lack of exercise.

Let’s Look At This Another Way**
Breast cancer claims a life every 42 minutes due to physical inactivity.

What’s the Connection?
I’m glad you asked. Above I cited that 12,000 people die annually from breast cancer in North America because they do not get enough exercise. The role of exercise in reducing breast cancer risk is based currently on two possible factors. The first is that physical activity helps reduce the amount of undesirable weight and/or body fat. Higher levels of obesity are associated with breast cancer risk. The second factor may be a hormonal connection. Regular physical activity is known to reduce levels of estrogen, testosterone and insulin. Higher levels of these hormones predispose a person to increased breast cancer risk. Using insulin as an example, Dr. Celia Byrne and her associates at Harvard University discovered that increased C-peptide (an insulin production marker) levels are higher in women with breast cancer. Interestingly, however, women who exercise on a regular basis have lower levels of C-peptide suggesting that physical activity decreases insulin levels and therefore breast cancer.

An Easy Fix
Lack of physical activity is an easy fix. To reduce the risk of breast cancer through physical activity, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity during the week (50 minutes 3 times a week or ~37 minutes 4 times a week—that’s 1-1/2% of your 24 hour day) does the trick. Even if you can’t squeeze in the 150 minutes/week learn to build physical activity into your life. Never lie down when you can sit. Never sit when you can stand. Never stand when you can walk. Never walk when you can run, bike, swim, jog, jump……..

*Lee, I, Shiroma, EJ, Lobelo F. et al. The Lancet, Published online 7/18/12

**© 2012, Fitness Finders, Inc. Permission granted to use provided recognition is given to Fitness Finders, Inc (1007 Hurst Rd, Jackson MI, 49201)

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