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Four lifestyle interventions that can prevent cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to an extensive study review, four lifestyle interventions can prevent cancer - exercise, smoking cessation, reducing excessive sun exposure, and healthy eating. The review looked at how human behaviors change cells, producing malignancies. The researchers also identified which types of cancer can be prevented, or made less severe through lifestyle interventions.

Obesity will soon usurp tobacco smoking as the top reason that humans get cancer. Lung, colon and rectal, breast, prostate, and skin cancer, especially melanoma, are the focus of the review. All of the cancers could be prevented with specific lifestyle interventions.

Lung Cancer and Lifestyle

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men (31 percent) and women (25 percent) in the United States. Eighty-five to 95 percent are related to tobacco use. Forty six million adults in the US smoke and worldwide, almost a billion men, and 250 million women, are smokers. Lifestyle changes that can help prevent lung cancer include a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise, and smoking cessation. Exercise can also improve survival among lung cancer patients, and is also an important lifestyle intervention to prevent colon cancer.

Lung cancer patients who stop smoking have a better response to chemotherapy, and less chance of recurrence. The review of studies revealed that lifestyle interventions that include exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables, and smoking cessation can prevent lung cancer, and increase survival in those diagnosed with the disease.

Colon Cancer, Diet, and Exercise

Colon cancer has been studied extensively as related to diet. The incidence of colon cancer is high, as are health care costs associated with treatment. Consuming more than 180 grams of red meat daily is found to increase colon cancer risk in a large European study. Eating red meat seven days a week is responsible for a whopping 85 percent increase in the chances of developing colorectal cancer. Simply cutting down on red meat is a lifestyle intervention that could prevent colon cancer. Eating more fiber is also linked to colon (but not rectal) cancer prevention in one large European study. The study review also found that moderate exercise is an important lifestyle intervention to prevent colon cancer, and reduce incidence of recurrence. Colon cancer was also found to be lowest among those who exercise the most vigorously.

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Lifestyle Changes and Breast Cancer

Given the high number of breast cancer survivors in the United States, the study found lifestyle changes can have “enormous” implications for breast cancer prevention and survival, yet little is still known about the cause and exactly what lifestyle factors improve survival. The effect of diet, supplement use, and weight still require more study. The study review found that exercise can reduce risk of breast cancer by twenty percent, even if started later in life, including women at high risk. Consistent, low-level exercise is an important lifestyle intervention to prevent breast cancer, and improve survival among women diagnosed with breast cancer, extracted from the review.

Prostate Cancer

Obesity seems to increase the risk of prostate cancer. The strongest support from studies for prevention begins by controlling obesity in childhood and early adulthood. One study was found linking saturated fat intake to prostate cancer recurrence after prostatectomy. The best evidence found for lifestyle intervention that can prevent prostate cancer is by consuming a healthy diet to avoid obesity and excess fat, beginning early in life.

Lifestyle Interventions to Prevent Skin Cancer

Melanoma is the second most common skin cancer in young women and the third most common in young men in their twenties. Exposure to UV rays alters DNA. Avoidance of tanning beds and excessive sun exposure are the most important lifestyle changes identified to prevent skin cancer.

In addition to lifestyle changes that can prevent cancer, the study authors say it is important to know your family history. “Our lifestyle has to accommodate our genes. Testing for carrier status of susceptibility genes for breast and colon cancers is commercially available”, and can help individuals prone to certain cancers develop a prevention plan.

In addition to lifestyle interventions, regular visits for cancer screening, physician counseling, and chemoprevention for individuals at high risk for cancer are important for prevention. A focus on four lifestyle interventions: diet, exercise, tobacco cessation, and avoidance of excessive UV radiation could prevent lung, colon, breast, prostate and skin cancer, especially melanoma.

Source: American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine