Healthy Lifestyle Cuts Cancer Risk

Following recommended nutrition and physical activity guidelines for preventing cancer can reduce your risk of developing cancer by at least 10% and your risk of dying from cancer by around 25%, according to US researchers.

In the largest study to date to look at the relationship between following a set of health-related guidelines and cancer risk and mortality, the researchers measured how closely participants adhered to the American Cancer Society (ACS) cancer prevention guidelines.   These included limiting alcohol intake, making healthy dietary choices (higher intakes of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains and lower intakes of red meat, processed meats and refined grains), maintaining a healthy body weight, and taking part in regular moderate to vigorous physical activity. Participants were followed for more than 10 years to see if they developed cancer and more than 13 years to assess mortality.

After controlling for smoking, there was a modest reduction in overall cancer risk (10% for men and 19% for women) but a substantial reduction in risk (ranging from 15 to 65%) in 14 of the 25 sites they assessed.  This included cancers of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, breast, endometrium, bladder, kidney, lung, and leukemia.  The largest reductions in risk were seen for gallbladder, endometrial, liver and colon cancers, but there were some differences between men and women.

Those with the highest adherence to the guidelines also had a lower risk of dying of cancer (25% lower in men and 24% lower in women)  and a lower risk of all-cause mortality (26% lower in men and 33% lower in women).

The research, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention involved more than 476000 subjects who were participating in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, a large study developed at the National Cancer Institute of the US National Institutes of Health to help improve our understanding of the relationship between diet and health.

Kohler et al (2016). Adherence to Diet and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention Guidelines and Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review.  Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Published OnlineFirst June 23, 2016.

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