Women who gain 60 pounds or more during their adulthood are almost twice as likely to have breast cancer compared to women that had an average weight gain of ten pounds or less. So says Heather Felgelson of the American Cancer society, about an ACS-conducted study on about 44,000 women.
Is it brand-spankin' news? Not really, but it is a reminder that packing on extra weight does put you at risk for various illnesses, some incurable. It is important to say it again and again. The link between obesity and breast cancer is so real for so many women that it would be irresponsible not to mention it again. I know that there are still many unknown factors, such as environmental impact and genetics. Obesity seems to directly affect levels of estrogen, and it is well documented that certain types of estrogen, specifically, estrone, play an important part in the development of breast cancer.
But obesity, whether fully responsible for cancer or not, is certainly not going to help women prevent this terrible disease.
So what are we to do? Well, we do what we can to encourage significantly overweight women to lose their weight. The basic principles still continue be true: eat a balanced diet with lots of colored vegetable and fruits, watch your fats, engage in some type of physical activity, and make sure you balance calories.
Sometimes we think we are too old to change. One concept that I, until recently, did not fully understand was how to appreciate human age. Many times we doctors tend to see diseases rather than individual. What I mean is, there is a difference between calendar age and biological age. During my years in medical school and post-graduate training, I was never taught to treat patients according to their biological age, but rather classify them into calendar age groups. Boy, what a mistake! You can be 60 years old and have a metabolism of a 40-year-old woman just as a 40-year-old woman can have a metabolism of a 60-year-old. Many of us choose to be we who want to be. Yes, I know it's a cliché and that there are many circumstances in life beyond our control. But when it comes to our health, can we change our destiny?
The general concept of human destiny is one of the questions that always comes up specially as we age. I know this because one my best friends just turned 50, and as we sat in an Irish pub having a nice pint of Guinness, he said "half a century... not much time left." I understood what he meant, but also how short-sighted we both were at that moment. Many philosophers and every religion seem to tackle the specific question: Are we, as humans, able to change our destiny? I'll always remember one of my favorite passages in the Bible, when Jesus calls to the first disciples. Jesus saw Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea and he said to them, "Come after me and I will make you fishers of men," and they followed him. Change of destiny? Yes, it is possible! Especially when we know that through our faith in goodness and beauty, our lives will be better than before. The truth is, our health is ours to change for the better, and we must protect it at all costs.
We must not think of our birthdays as a countdown to the end. If I choose to be 30 years old, I need to find ways of reversing my biological age. How do I that? Well, you know the answer. You do not need a book, motivator or, for that matter, any $29.99 gadget you might see on the shopping channel. The only thing you need is common sense. Follow your heart and it will make you a fisherman of life.
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Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.