Gynecologic cancers involve the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells originating in the female reproductive organs, including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, and vulva.
Healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk of developing some gynecologic cancers and can also improve the health of those who are fighting a gynecological cancer or looking to prevent recurrence. A healthy diet, physical activity, and weight management are all important aspects of a cancer-fighting lifestyle.
The American Cancer Society and American Institute for Cancer Research recommend eating a variety of healthful foods, with emphasis on plant sources. Plant foods contain many kinds of edible cancer-fighters: vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Consider the following healthy suggestions:
- Aim for 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Focus on non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and summer squash.
- Include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard greens, arugula, bok choy, turnips, and watercress. Laboratory studies suggest cruciferous vegetables may protect against cancer of the uterus and cervix.
- Aim for at least 3 servings daily of whole grains (a serving equals 1 slice of bread or a half-cup of pasta, rice or cooked cereal).
- Limit consumption of red meat and processed meat (those preserved by curing, smoking or the addition of nitrites). This includes sausage, bacon, deli meats, and hot dogs
Various studies have looked at the relationship of obesity and ovarian cancer. Overall, it appears that obese women (those with a body mass index of at least 30) have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends individuals maintain a healthy weight throughout life without becoming underweight. One can do so by aiming for a healthy body weight at a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or less.
Long term, we also know that being active can help you maintain a healthy weight as well as reduce risk for certain types of cancer. Current research suggest that some biological effects of physical activity may play a role in cancer prevention by reducing body fat, boosting the immune system, and speeding up food transit time in the gut. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends 30 minutes or more of physically activity every day.
Remember, being active does not have to mean going to the gym; there are plenty of other ways to be active that you can fit into your usual routine. Walking to the store instead of driving and doing household work are just a few examples. Choose activities you enjoy and think about variety to stay motivated! [i][ii][iii]