SEATTLE — Dec. 22, 2003 — After the fun yet flurried excesses of the holidays, many of us will step boldly into 2004 with a few extra pounds around the middle, a pair of shiny new sneakers in the closet and the best intentions to actually use them. Unfortunately, regardless of whether we resolve to hit the gym, peel off a few pounds, eat right or stop smoking, many of us will have trouble sustaining the virtuous, feel-good momentum of New Year's for more than a couple of weeks, much less beyond Groundhog Day.
To help make healthy choices a lifelong habit instead of a fleeting fad, perhaps these findings from researchers in the Public Health Sciences Division of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center will provide the added incentive to:
QUIT SMOKING (to prevent your children from getting hooked) — Smokers who are parents of young children have yet another compelling reason to kick the habit, according to a study by Fred Hutchinson researcher Jonathan Bricker, Ph.D., who found that parents who quit smoking before their child reaches third grade will significantly reduce their child's odds of becoming a smoker by the time their senior year of high school rolls around. If one parent quits, the child's odds of smoking decrease by 25 percent. If both parents quit, the child's odds of becoming a smoker drop by 40 percent. "The first step to quit smoking is becoming personally motivated to quit," said Bricker, clinical psychologist. "This study could help tip the motivational balance for parents — or prospective parents — who want to do something about their smoking behavior, both for their own sake and for that of their child." These findings appeared in the May 2003 issue of Addiction.
QUIT SMOKING (to reduce the risk of prostate cancer) — Everyone knows that smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer, but it also can play a role in the development of other malignancies, from cancers of the bladder and cervix to the esophagus and kidney. Researchers at Fred Hutchinson recently added prostate cancer to the list. "From a public-health perspective, I think we now have enough evidence to suggest that prostate cancer should be added to the long list of malignancies in which smoking plays a role," said Janet L. Stanford, Ph.D. Stanford and colleagues reported that middle-aged men who are long-term, heavy smokers face twice the risk of developing more aggressive forms of prostate cancer than men who have never smoked. Such men also face a 60 percent increased risk of prostate cancer overall relative to nonsmokers. Their findings appeared in the July 2003 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
EXERCISE (to reduce dangerous "hidden" belly fat) — Next to not smoking, one of the best things a person can do to reduce their risk of cancer and other diseases is to get regular, moderate exercise and keep their weight down, according to Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. McTiernan and colleagues found that regular, moderate-intensity exercise effectively reduces intra-abdominal fat, a hidden risk factor for many chronic illnesses, from cancer to heart disease. People with high levels of intra-abdominal fat may not even know it, because it is deposited deep inside the abdomen around the internal organs. "It's where women tend to store fat after menopause," said McTiernan. The researchers found that moderate exercise, such as walking for 45 minutes a day, five days a week, can reduce hidden belly fat by up to 7 percent — even without changing one's diet. "The beauty of exercise as a method to reduce total and intra-abdominal fat — and therefore risk of chronic disease — is that it can be done at low cost and with low risk of side effects." These findings appeared in the Jan. 15, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
EXERCISE (to prevent breast cancer) — McTiernan and colleagues also reported in JAMA that increased physical activity, even when begun late in life, reduces overall breast-cancer risk by 18 percent. What's more, she found that the activity need not be strenuous, but it should be done consistently, such as taking a brisk, 30-minute walk five days a week. "We thought it was important to determine if moderate-intensity physical activities, such as walking, biking outdoors or easy swimming, when initiated later in life, can reduce the risk of breast cancer, since these types of activities are achievable for most women. Our results suggested that indeed, moderate activity, even when started in a woman's postmenopausal years, can cut her risk of breast cancer by about 20 percent, suggesting that physical inactivity may be a modifiable breast-cancer risk factor in older women." These findings appeared in the Sept. 10, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
EXERCISE (to sleep easier at night) — In addition to breast-cancer prevention, McTiernan and colleagues recently reported that exercise improves sleep quality in older women. The researchers found that women who exercised at a moderate intensity for at least half an hour each morning, seven days, a week, had less trouble falling asleep than those who exercised less. Conversely, women who exercised in the evening experienced little or no improvement in sleep onset or quality. "Postmenopausal women commonly report sleep problems. Exercise may help to alleviate these problems, as long as it is performed early in the day," she said. The findings appeared in the November 2003 issue of Sleep.
MAINTAIN A NORMAL WEIGHT (to increase the odds of surviving breast cancer) — Maintaining a normal weight could literally save a woman from dying of breast cancer, according to Janet Daling, Ph.D., who reported that women with breast cancer who are overweight are more than twice as likely to die of the disease than their thinner counterparts. What's more, she found that breast tumors from heavier women tend to be larger and to have molecular characteristics indicative of aggressive cell growth. "If a woman develops breast cancer, keeping her weight down could significantly increase her chances of survival," Daling said. Obesity may be associated with poor prognosis because fat cells produce estrogens, which in turn stimulate the growth of breast-cancer cells, she said. These findings appeared in the August 2001 issue of Cancer.
DRINK IN MODERATION, IF AT ALL (to prevent breast cancer) — If cutting back on drinking — or abstaining completely — is on your New Year's resolution list, a side benefit could include reducing the risk of breast cancer. Christopher Li, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues reported that women who were current drinkers who consumed at least two drinks a day had an 80 percent higher risk of breast cancer overall compared to nondrinkers. The risk varied by cellular, or histologic breast-cancer type; such women had more than three times the risk of lobular cancer (a 330 percent increased risk) and a 50 percent increased risk of ductal cancer. "This is one of the first studies to evaluate the relationship between alcohol use and breast cancer and how alcohol consumption modifies the risk of different types of breast cancer," Li said. The study was published in the October 2003 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES (to decrease cancer risk) — It's a familiar refrain, but more and more scientific evidence keeps underscoring the fact that Mom really was right about the importance of eating enough fruits and veggies. A recent case in point: Women who eat four or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day have a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared with women who eat two or fewer servings a day, according to an arm of Fred Hutchinson's landmark Shanghai Breast Self-Examination Study that compared the diets of 378 breast-cancer patients versus 1,070 healthy women in Shanghai, China. The link was even stronger for the highest consumers of fruit. The findings were presented in November 2003 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Men also have a good reason to eat more veggies: Fred Hutchinson researchers found that eating just three servings of vegetables a day can cut a man's risk of prostate cancer nearly in half. The strongest cancer-fighting effect was for cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. These findings appeared in the Jan. 4, 2000 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center seeks Seattle-area men and women, ages 20 to 40, for two feeding studies to determine how fruits and vegetables may help trigger the body's cancer-fighting machinery. Participants who qualify will be asked to eat specific foods, provide blood and urine samples, and track their food intake and physical activity, among other requirements. Eligible participants may receive up to two months of free food and beverages as well as a cash stipend of up to $500. Those who'd like more information about the DIGEST and 2EAT studies can call 1-800-643-4471 or visit http://www.fhcrc.org/donating/other/study/.
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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home of two Nobel Prize laureates, is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical technology to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. Fred Hutchinson receives more funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other independent U.S. research center. Recognized internationally for its pioneering work in bone-marrow transplantation, the center's four scientific divisions collaborate to form a unique environment for conducting basic and applied science. Fred Hutchinson, in collaboration with its clinical and research partners, the University of Washington Academic Medical Center and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Pacific Northwest and is one of 38 nationwide. For more information, visit the center's Web site at www.fhcrc.org.