Dancing to the Goal

In 2013, Zumba pledged to raise a total of $3 million, which gives Susan G. Komen enough funds to support the Zumba® Global Research Grant for Breast Cancer Prevention. Every October, thousands participate in Zumba’s fundraiser Party in Pink™ Zumbathon® charity events (including at 24 Hour Fitness). As the Zumba community dances ever closer to that $3 million goal, 24Life asked Alberto Perlman, co-founder and CEO of Zumba, about the broader impact of the campaign, and how people can help make 2018 the year that Zumba reaches its goal.

24Life: What makes a Party in Pink™ Zumbathon® charity event “class” different or special?

Alberto Perlman: Almost everyone knows someone who has or has had breast cancer, and when you participate in a Party in Pink™ Zumbathon® charity event, you are not just dancing to sweat, you are really dancing for them.

24Life: What led to this campaign in 2013? Why was it important to start it at that time, and why this particular cause?

AP: There were three important factors. First, Komen’s research has contributed to a dramatic decrease in mortality rates. From 1989 to 2015, the mortality rate dropped by 39 percent (avoiding more than 320,000 deaths). And we want them to keep improving that rate so we can make a real difference in many more lives. Second, the disease is so widespread and obviously hits our community very close to home. It is an epidemic, and we have seen how tough it is on people we love. Third, most funded research is for treatment of breast cancer. But we wanted to fund research that no one else was funding and support research that no one else was doing on disease prevention.

24Life: What is the specific research project that Zumba is funding?

AP: As noted above, we wanted to focus on finding a way to prevent breast cancer and not just look at treatment. We are funding a research study led by Dr. Carol Fabian that supports a clinical trial focused on determining if a component of flaxseed, a lignin called secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, or SDG, can prevent breast cancer in premenopausal women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer. If successful, this study could result in a novel, safe, easy-to-access/administer and cost-effective way for women to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

24Life: What was the response when you first announced it?

AP: When we launched, we saw a huge response from our global network of instructors. Why? Because they all have access to flaxseeds, they all want their students to be healthy, and because they believe in making the world a better place.

24Life: For people who might have the good fortune not to have experienced a loved one’s illness or their own illness, what have you/Zumba learned or observed about the broader impact of this initiative?

AP: Apart from funding this important research, it sends the message to people that they are not alone. Community fundraising is part of letting people know that others care, and that goes a long way.

24Life: Research takes a long time, but are there any insights, breakthroughs, etc., that we can share with respect to the study you’re funding?

AP: The final results of the clinical trial will be shared in 2019. However, in preliminary studies, by looking at single cells and model systems, Fabian has gained insight into how SDG (plant lignin found in flaxseed) may impact breast cancer. These studies included a diet supplemented with plant lignin’s that had several positive outcomes, including:

Early findings from Fabian’s studies indicate it is possible that the plant lignin is able to inhibit tumor progression by impacting the inflammatory response in a tumor. Sites of chronic inflammation, like in many tumors, can lead to poor outcomes, including increased metastasis. If plant lignin’s are able to reduce the inflammation in a tumor, this may inhibit tumor progression toward metastasis. The clinical trial will help determine if this is the case in people.

24Life: Is there anything that would surprise our readers about the campaign—or that surprised Zumba?

AP: What has surprised us the most through this campaign apart from the massive number of Zumbathons and donations is the amount of love that the Zumba community shares— so many survivors have come forth to tell us that Zumba was their rock during their process.

24Life: Any final thoughts that you’d like to leave our readers with?

AP: If we can prevent one diagnosis, this is worth it. Please participate because one diagnosis is already too many. Once we get the results, we will make sure that people share the knowledge to improve their health.

Find a Party in Pink™ Zumbathon® charity event at a 24 Hour Fitness near you, or make a donation by October 31 to help Zumba reach its goal.