With the ASICS LA Marathon behind me and our seventh annual Walk with Love coming up, exercise and lifestyle are on my mind.
Those of you who follow us on our Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and Army of Women Facebook pages will have seen a recent study confirming once again that exercise and movement not only reduce your risk of getting breast cancer but also of having a recurrence. Does this mean that it is your fault that you got breast cancer or a recurrence because you didn’t exercise? An emphatic NO!
As I have said before, there are at least two factors to developing clinically significant breast cancer. One is relevant mutations in the DNA of a cell and the second is a neighborhood that not only tolerates these cells but eggs them on. We have a pretty good idea what causes mutations in cells . Things like carcinogens, viruses, radiation, and your genetic heritage are known causes of mutations. So is aging. It is not unlike having a car–the longer you own it, the more likely that it will get dings and things will go wrong. And like in your car, some of those issues are more important than others.
We know a lot less about what creates the kind of neighborhood that stimulates the mutated cells. In our bodies, the neighborhood involves the immune system (which functions like a security system, police force and firefighters), fat and fibrous tissue (think: buildings and infrastructure), blood vessels and lymphatics (the roads in and out of the neighborhood)…you get the picture! Evidence is mounting that a bad neighborhood will not by itself cause cancer, but if there are any “iffy” cells, it certainly will support them and maybe even stimulate them.
That is where lifestyle comes in. Exercise, diet, weight control, stress reduction all contribute to cleaning up the body’s neighborhood in the same way that getting rid of graffiti, empty buildings, abandoned cars, and garbage on the streets can help turn a ghetto into a good place to live. And if your neighborhood is already tidy, a few more flowers and trees make it even better.
My recent blog about the big annual meeting of cancer researchers, American Association of Cancer Researchers (AACR) summarized the science focusing on the neighborhood. As always with research, more study is needed but early findings, particularly in immunology, are very promising. For now, I encourage you in your own efforts in cleaning up your own neighborhood. Form a team to Walk with Love with us on May 18 in Pacific Palisades (MY neighborhood!), or virtually in your own town. Gather a group of friends and make a plan to support each other and be accountable for progress. The teamwork will be a good source of social support, the exercise will be good for your body, and we will use the money you raise to do more research to end this disease.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get moving !