Does a healthy lifestyle really reduce the risk of developing colon cancer?

October 27th, 2014 @   -  No Comments
My favorite studies are the kinds that confirm what we already knew via the scientific method.  As a surgical oncologist, lots of my patients ask me if diet and exercise has an impact on cancer.  Well I always believe that diet and exercise have an overall impact on a person’s health, so answering in the affirmative was never hard, even though diet and exercise was never proven to have a correlation to cancer.  That has now changed.
In a study published just a few days ago in BMC Medicine, researches collected enough data to determine that maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising, eating healthy (a diet high in vegetables, fruit, fish, yogurt, nuts, seeds, high-fiber foods, and foods low in processed and red meat), not smoking smoking and curtailing alcohol consumption are individually related to colorectal cancer (CRC) risk.
The lead author of the study, Krasimira Aleksandrova, PhD, of the department of epidemiology at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Berlin, noted that “with an increasing number of healthy lifestyle behaviors, the risk that a person will have of developing bowel cancer decreases,”
The researchers collected data on 347,237 subjects, age 25 to 70, within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. The study subjects were followed for 12 years and provided dietary and lifestyle data. After the follow-up period, 3,759 were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The median age of the participants was 51.8.
The study found that if the study subjects adopted two healthy lifestyle behaviors, lowers the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 13%, adopting three healthy lifestyle behaviors, lowers the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 21%, adopting four healthy lifestyle behaviors, lowers the risk of developing colorectal cancer by34% while adopting all five healthy lifestyle behaviors, lowers the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 37%.
Another set of important numbers are just how many of the subjects stuck to their healthy lifestyle choices.
  • 76% were non-smokers (63% never smoked
  • 60% had a healthy diet
  • 59% maintained a healthy weight
  • 52% exercised regularly
With this study, I’ll be more comfortable telling my patients that indeed the combination of three of the factors—healthy weight, nonsmoking, and healthy diet—is now proven to be linked to lowering a risk of developing colorectal cancer as was the combination of all five factors. The healthier the lifestyle the lower the risk for developing colon cancer.

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