August 5, 2008

Fighting the Good Fi Ght

By Felix Alfonso PeNa, Reading Eagle, Pa.

Aug. 5--FOR KAREN L. COLON, learning how diet and exercise can help protect her from a recurrence of breast cancer gave her some choices.

"It makes you accountable," said Colon, 48, who lives in Spring Township. "Now you have no excuse."

"You know the whys and wherefores," said Joan A. Hackman, 67, of South Heidelberg Township.

The two breast cancer survivors, both of whom were diagnosed in 2002, were part of an audience of some 70 women that attended "Eating and Exercising To Win the Fight," presented recently by the Abramson Cancer Center Living Well After Cancer Program at St. Joseph Medical Center, Bern Township.

The program was supported by the Lance Armstrong Foundation through a LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network grant.

The nutritional advice for preventing cancer is identical to that given to cancer survivors, said Kristen Putt, a dietitian with the hospital.

"There are things that we can do," she said. "Thirty to 40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by changes in diet and physical activity."

Being as lean as possible without being underweight is important, she said, because excess body fat increases the risk of cancer by 2 percent for every point above a body mass index of 23, although she said the recommended BMI is between 18.5 and 25.

People can learn how to calculate their body mass index by visiting

Putt urged the audience to eat a literally colorful variety of foods following a low-energy-dense food diet that is predominantly plant-based. The ideal plate of food would contain about two-thirds vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, and only about onethird animal protein.

She recommended "The New American Plate Cookbook," published by the American Institute for Cancer Research, as a good source for information about a healthy diet.

Limiting the consumption of red meat, which includes beef, pork, lamb or veal, and avoiding processed meats is a good idea, she said, because of the carcinogens that those meats contain.

Each 1.5 ounces of processed meats consumed daily increases the risk of cancer by 21 percent, she said.

Similarly, because alcohol is a known carcinogen, women should have no more than one drink a day and men no more than two, she said.

Putt told the audience research showed that women breast cancer survivors whose diet included five or more servings of vegetables and fruit a day, and who did moderate exercise three or more hours a week had a 50 percent higher survival rate than those women who did one or neither.

Allison M. Maurer, a St. Joseph exercise physiologist, gave numerous tips for starting and keeping an exercise plan.

The benefits are both physical and psychological she said, because people feel more alert and less depressed when they exercise regularly.

"The best exercise is whatever you enjoy," Maurer said.

A good exercise level passes the "talk test," she said.

"If you can talk loud while you're doing it, that's right," she said. "If you can sing, whistle or hum, it's too easy."

She urged people to start slow and build up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, three to six days a week.


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