Health News You Can Use - Part Eight
Coffee, Exercise, Cancer, and Smoking Bans

© 2010 Leonore H. Dvorkin

Note: This article was originally published in the August 2010 issue of the Denver publication Community News.

1. Coffee helps protect against cancer

The analysis of pooled data from nine studies shows that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day results in a 39% decrease in the risk of head and neck cancer - specifically, cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx. Such cancers have a low survival rate. The study compared coffee drinkers with non-drinkers of coffee. Other studies have shown a link between coffee consumption and a decreased risk of prostate cancer. Yet another recent study has shown that drinking five or more cups per day of either coffee or tea reduces the risk of gliomas, or brain tumors. (EurekAlert, 6/22/10)

2. Exercise during cancer treatment is good for you, even during chemotherapy

This article was of particular interest to me because I am both a breast cancer survivor and a weight training instructor. Based on my own experience and on what I've read, I definitely believe in the good effects of exercise following surgery for breast cancer. In addition, I have two friends, one here in Denver and one in Sweden, who recently underwent breast cancer surgery and chemotherapy. Both of them were what I would consider amazingly active during chemotherapy, doing such things as bicycling long distances, playing tennis, doing extensive gardening, and hosting large parties.

Given the daunting physical and emotional effects of cancer surgery, as well as the fatigue and nausea associated with chemotherapy, exercise during cancer treatment may sound unwise. In the past, doctors did indeed tell cancer patients to take it easy during treatment. That old advice is now old hat - although of course the amount of exercise that can be done varies from patient to patient. The ACSM, the American College of Sports Medicine, now urges cancer patients to be as physically active as possible during treatment.

Benefits of exercise during treatment include a boost in energy, a psychological pick-me-up, and help with battling the weight gain often associated with cancer treatment. Patients who keep diaries during cancer treatment report significant benefits from exercise, including a valuable "sense of everyday life." Also, you are defying your cancer when you exercise during treatment, and that can feel very good. The ACSM recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or about 20 minutes per day. (My two friends managed to get in a lot more exercise than that.)

Even a walk around the block can be a start, and is better than no exercise at all. People who were sedentary before the cancer diagnosis may need to start with walks of no more than 10 minutes or so. Caregivers can help motivate patients when they are feeling down.

In addition, there are now many resources for cancer patients who feel they need some guidance when it comes to exercising during treatment. There are programs that can be delivered by mail, phone, or the Internet. More and more hospitals are creating exercise programs for cancer patients. And in 2007, the Lance Armstrong Foundation partnered with the YWCA to provide physical activities for cancer survivors.

Prostate cancer, stomach cancer, or cancer of the head or neck may lead to a loss of weight and muscle mass. There may be a loss of the sense of taste or the ability to process certain foods. Those patients need to focus on resistance exercises, those that use dumbbells, barbells, or resistance bands, in order to keep up their muscle mass and functional tissue. (Health Magazine 2010 / 6/12/10)

An older article I have talks about the benefits of weight training for breast cancer survivors. The benefits include more strength and self-confidence and less depression. (Yahoo News, 3/27/06)

3. Smoking bans increase employment

When state-wide indoor smoking bans first started coming into effect, some people predicted a loss of business for eating and drinking establishments and subsequent job cuts. Now comes a report from two large Minnesota cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, that shows an increase in both business and employment in bars and restaurants since the enactment of the Minnesota indoor smoking ban in 2007. The two cities enacted their own bans in 2005 and 2006.

Employment in Minneapolis bars increased by 5%, and employment in St. Paul bars rose 1%. Employment in Minneapolis restaurants rose 3%, and employment in St. Paul restaurants rose 4%. These findings are consistent with other studies on the effects of smoking bans in California, Canada, and Australia.

Midwestern states have been slower than coastal states to adopt clean indoor air policies. The lead author of the study, Elizabeth Klein, at Ohio State University, hopes this recent study will encourage more communities and states to adopt indoor smoking bans, given that the bans tend to improve both economic health and physical health. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services says that exposure to secondhand smoke increases nonsmokers' risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory conditions, and other diseases. (EurekAlert, 6/29/10)

If you wish to read the article that I wrote in Sept. 2006 in favor of Colorado's indoor smoking ban, please click here. I've received a lot of mail about the article, most of it positive. One woman even wrote that my article helped her stop smoking.