Stay fit: Watch your waist to keep cancer at bay

If you are serious about reducing risk of cancer, according to new American Cancer Society guidelines, you need to get serious about watching your weight, eating a healthy diet, and staying physically active.

The chief recommendations are —

• Maintain a healthy weight throughout life.

• Adopt a physically active lifestyle.

• Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.

• Limit alcohol, if you drink it at all.

The new guidelines place a much stronger emphasis on weight control than previous versions, said Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity at ACS and a co-author of the new guidelines.

Few people associate excess weight with cancer, but being too heavy is known to raise a person’s risk of developing certain types of the disease, including breast cancer in women past menopause, and cancers of the colon, endometrium, esophagus, and kidney. But if being overweight increases one’s risk of cancer, does dropping those extra pounds lead to a drop in risk? For at least one very common cancer, the answer is yes, said Doyle, and it’s likely true for other cancers, too.

“ there is evidence that losing weight can reduce the risk for post-menopausal breast cancer, and because of hormonal changes that occur with weight loss, there’s reason to believe it’s beneficial for other cancers as well,” explained Doyle.

Portion control is one way to maintain a healthy weight, according to the guidelines. Exercise is another. The recommendation is for adults to get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity in addition to those everyday activities, for at least five days a week. For children, it is for 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity at least five days a week. People can keep calories under co-ntrol by replacing high-calories foods with more fruits and vegetables.