More good from the good life

Diet, exercise lower endometrial cancer risk

That strategy for fending off an army of diseases just scored another win. In addition to its other life-extending benefits, the Prevention lifestyle--eating right and getting regular exercise--may also shield women from endometrial cancer.

High estrogen levels are believed to play a substantial role in this cancer. Two new studies lend credence to the idea that you can handle that errant hormone--and reduce your risk for this cancer--by eating grains, cutting down on fats and staying active.

"In terms of prevention, many of the risk factors for endometrial cancer are ones you can act on," says Louise Brinton, Ph.D., chief of environmental studies at the National Cancer Institute and co-author in both studies. Dr. Brinton and colleagues compared the eating habits of 399 women with endometrial cancer with 296 disease-free women. Women who ate more than two servings of breads and cereals a day had a lower risk of this cancer--by 40 percent. The heavy hitters in that food group included high-fiber cereals, dark breads (including whole wheat, rye and pumpernickel), as well as corn bread, corn muffins and corn tortillas.

That familiar health villain, fat, wore a black hat here, too: Animal fats (two to three servings a day) and fried foods (five servings a week) put women at a 1 1/2 to almost 2 times greater risk (Cancer Causes and Control, May 1993). Researchers haven't established exactly how much fat you should cut to protect yourself, but a safe bet, they say, is to keep it under 25 percent of total calories (our fat limit in "Prevention Cuisine"). This also decreases the likelihood of obesity, another risk factor for endometrial cancer.

If you've been eating this way already, great! But don't rest on your laurels (or anywhere else). Women with sedentary jobs were found to be 2 1/2 times more likely than their active peers to get the disease. Researchers learned this from studying the activity levels of 268 Chinese women with endometrial cancer and an equal number without (Epidemiology, July 1993). Exercise sheds body fat, which may be where its power lies: Less fat means less estrogen. Regular activity may also reduce the intestinal absorption of a precursor of estrogen by helping to speed things through the gut.

Until researchers come up with their own exercise recipe, follow the Prevention Program: That's 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day, plus another 30 minutes of "lifestyle workouts" (taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking instead of driving, for example), and three days a week add a 20-minute resistance-training session and then complete your daily 60-minute total with lifestyle workouts.

PHOTO: Woman walking dog


Marty Munson and Greg Gutfeld, with Maureen Sangiorgio and Teresa Yeykal

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