NYTimes Tackles Cancer Prevention Through Exercise

A few weeks ago, Gina Kolata of The New York Times wrote the first in a series about diet's role in preventing cancer. Dr. Fuhrman wrote a lengthy response (one of his main points: by ignoring the influence of diet during childhood, she missed the major nutrition/cancer link).

Today marks the second article in Ms. Kolata's cancer prevention series, and it focuses on exercise. The article is well worth a read. While I'm sure there are those who would argue some of her conclusions, she touches on a lot of the same issues that Dr. Fuhrman often talks about--like the early onset of menstruation and its effect on breast cancer rates (one doctor she quotes, for instance, says girls only begin menstruating when they have excess calories).

But what struck me most was the clear presentation of a rather sad notion: we Americans seem to not want to learn from the best medical research, if it means doing "boring" things like eating right and exercising.

The article quotes several studies and doctors making clear that there is a strong correlation between exercise and colon cancer. But doctors who prescribe exercise have little luck:

"I'm pretty confident it will work," Dr. Sandler said of the exercise prescription. But, he adds, most patients dismiss that advice.

"They kind of blow me off," he said.

Dr. John Min, an internist in private practice in Burlington, N. C., loves exercise - he runs in marathons - and he believes it can improve health and possibly protect people from colon and breast cancer. But he does not even mention it to his patients as a way to protect against those cancers.

"Unfortunately, trying to get patients, even those who are very interested, to start exercising is very difficult," he says.

He said he has tried, and patients have left his office seeming excited about turning their life around. But they soon return to their sedentary ways.

"This is unfortunately what I have realized," Dr. Min said. "The ability for someone to significantly change their lifestyle, which they've lived with for years, is extremely difficult unless it is personally important to them. I can't make it personally important to them in the time of an office visit."


Hmm... that's seriously too bad. I'm interested in any ideas people might have about smart tactics to change that reality. Who knows how much healthier we would all be if we did simple, low-tech things like ate right and exercised?

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