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Can I be Your Hero: The New Fight Against Breast Cancer

Superheroes are immensely popular, and comic book heroes from Marvel and DC have jumped to the movie screen. Films such as X-Men: First Class, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers and the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise bring in millions of viewers, and even more superhero movies are on the way -- Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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But why are superheroes so popular? What makes children wrap a towel around their necks and give themselves a code name? It may be the allure of massive superpowers. Who wouldn't want to walk through walls like Shadowcat, be a martial arts master and great detective like Batman, or be able to heal instantly like Wolverine? It can't just be the powers, though. Many children want to be police officers, firefighters and doctors in addition to superheroes. What do all these careers have in common? The ability to save lives.

A certain subsection of the world's population could use a superhero or two right now: women at risk of breast cancer. Although the disease can grow in men, women are 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer because the female hormones estrogen and progesterone can help cancer cells grow. Age also plays a part, as the American Cancer Society says that about one in eight of invasive breast cancer cases occurs in women aged 45 and under. Women over the age of 55 have 66 percent of the reported cases of breast cancer.

Other factors can raise the risk of developing breast cancer, some that can be changed, and others that are beyond anyone's control. Ethnicity, genetics and personal history are a few of the factors that cannot be changed. The ones that women can have the most effect on are smoking, drinking alcohol, and obesity or dietary habits.

Researchers have recently found a connection between physical activity and a lower risk of cancer. As stated earlier, the female hormone estrogen can raise the chances of a woman developing breast cancer. Cher Dallal, a cancer prevention fellow at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, helped conduct a study of 540 Polish women, aged 40 to 70. "Our aim was to try to better understand how physical activity may affect levels of estrogen," Dallal said in an article in HealthDay.

Women were placed on an exercise regimen for seven days, and they gave urine samples every 12 hours so researchers could measure their hormone levels. The week-long study suggested that increased overall activity could help the body metabolize estrogen. "Physical activity was associated with lower levels of the main estrogens," Dallal noted.

This is all in the preliminary phase, as the research still needs to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. The findings, however, could be very important. With so many cancer-causing factors out of women's control, monitoring those that they can control may help them lower their risk. Exercise may be one of the risk lowering factors, according to Dallal's study.

What does this all have to do with superheroes? Well, heroes are charged with protecting people, and fighting off villains with their dastardly plans for world destruction. What villain is more dangerous and potentially destructive for women than breast cancer? Superheroes are needed to help combat breast cancer.

These heroes don't need powers like the X-Men, the Avengers, the Justice League or other comic book characters. If exercise can help women lower their risk, wouldn't a personal trainer qualify as a superhero? They may not be able to blast the cancer into remission with beams from their eyes, but they can help a woman to develop -- and stick to -- an exercise plan. Sometimes the smallest act can have the biggest impact on a life. The American Cancer Society reports that a study has shown that 1.25 to 2.5 hours of physical activity per week may be able to lower the risk for breast cancer by as much as 18 percent. For women age 55 and older, that could bring their risk down from 66 percent to 48 percent.

Sometimes it's hard to work out alone. Some like to have a professional build a workout plan for them so that they can take full advantage of the benefits of exercise. Working with a personal trainer can provide individuals with the tools to create a rigorous, healthy workout regimen. If this could potentially result in an 18 percent decrease in breast cancer risk, isn't that heroic?

About the Author:

Jamar Ramos has been writing poetry and fiction for many years, and earned his bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. For the last three years, Mr. Ramos switched to producing blog posts for CBSSports.com and writing professionally as an independent contributor for a number of Internet sites. His creative works have been featured in The Bohemian and The San Matean. He now contributes articles for OnlineDegrees.com, OnlineColleges.com, and AlliedHealthWorld.com.