Posted on Oct 05, 2023, 8 p.m.
Living in a more walkable neighborhood helps protect against the risk of overall obesity-related cancer in women, in particular, postmenopausal breast cancer, as well as ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and multiple myeloma according to a recent study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and NYC published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Obesity is linked to an increased risk for 13 types of cancer in women, and physical activity independent of body size helps to lower the risk for some of these cancers. Urban design features such as neighborhood walkability promote pedestrian activity, support overall physical activity, and are associated with lower BMIs.
This study involved 14,274 women between the ages of 34-65 years old who were followed for approximately 24 years (1985-1991). The researchers measured neighborhood walkability in the residential Census tract follow-up and assessed the association between walkability and risk of overall site-specific obesity-related cancers. 18% of the women developed obesity-related cancer by the end of 2016, with the most common cancer being postmenopausal cancer affecting 53% of the women, 14% developed colorectal cancer, and 12% developed endometrial cancer. Additionally, those who lived in areas with the highest levels of walkability had a 26% lower risk of obesity-related cancers compared to those who lived in neighborhoods with the lowest levels of walkability.
"These results contribute to the growing evidence of how urban design affects the health and wellbeing in aging populations," said Andrew Rundle, DrPH, professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School. Individual-level interventions to increase physical activity and reduce obesity are costly and often have only short-term effects, according to Rundle and colleagues. "However, urban design can create a context that promotes walking, increases overall physical activity, and reduce car-dependency, which could lead to subsequent improvements in preventing diseases attributed to unhealthy weight," Rundle observed.
"We further observed that the association between high neighborhood walkability and lower risk of overall obesity-related cancers was stronger for women living in neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty" said Sandra India-Aldana, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and lead author. "These findings suggest that neighborhood social and economic environments are also relevant to risk of developing obesity-related cancers."
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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