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Lifestyle Changes Alone Could Cut Colon Cancer Rates


Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading killer in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, new research has found that if five simple lifestyle changes were made, the rate of diagnosis could be reduced by nearly one-fourth.

Even Committing to Just One Healthful Change Dropped Cancer Rates

Helene Kirkegaard PhD of the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen and a team of researchers examined data on over 55,000 individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 who had no prior history of cancer. The participants completed a questionnaire which included statements of health, reproductive factors and lifestyle habits. Nutritional habits were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire. The study group was monitored for over a decade.

Read: Red Meat and Obesity Raise Risk of Colon Cancer

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The researchers created a “lifestyle index” which included assessing compliance with each of five lifestyle recommendations – 30 minutes or more per day of physical activity, consuming no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day (women – for men the limit is 2), not smoking, eating a healthy high fiber/low fat diet that is high in fruit and vegetable intake but low in meat, and maintaining a waist circumference below 88 cm for women and 102 for men.

Read: Daily Aspirin Reduces Colorectal Cancer Risk, Perhaps Others

If everyone adhered to just one additional recommendation, the study found, the number of colorectal cancer cases would have been 13% lower. Committing to all five would reduce the number of cases by 23%. The association appeared to be stronger in men than in women, however the researchers warn about drawing conclusions because there were fewer colorectal cancer cases among the women and that they tend to “overestimate the consumption of desirable items.”

Colorectal cancer causes over 50,000 deaths each year in the United States. The authors stress that even “modest differences in lifestyle might have a substantial impact on colorectal cancer risk.”

Source Reference:
"Association of adherence to lifestyle recommendations and risk of colorectal cancer: a prospective Danish cohort study" Helene Kirkegaard, Nina Føns Johnsen, Jane Christensen, Kirsten Frederiksen, Kim Overvad, Anne Tjønneland BMJ 2010; 341:c5504 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c550