All of us are at risk of cancer throughout our lifetime but a recent large study is strongly suggesting that one-quarter to one-third of all cancer cases including up to half of all cancer deaths could be prevented if we all practiced 4 lifestyle changes:
1. Do not smoke
2. Maintain a healthy body weight of a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 27.5
3. Limit or avoid alcohol
4. Exercise moderately at least 150 minutes a week or vigorously at least 75 minutes a week
This study published in JAMA Oncology analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and the US national cancer statistics to evaluate associations between lifestyle and cancer incidence and mortality.
Currently, only about one-fifth of people in the U. S. met all four goals. If a person is practicing the 4 lifestyle behaviors, women who are considered “low-risk” were 25 percent less likely to develop cancer and 48 percent less likely to die from it than other women. Men who practiced the 4 lifestyle behaviors and were considered “low-risk” were 33 percent less likely to develop cancer and 44 percent less likely to die from it.
Cancers that had the biggest reductions in incidence of those practicing the 4 lifestyle behaviors were lung, colon, rectum, pancreas, kidney, bladder, endometrium and ovarian.
Another study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that leisure-time physical activity was associated with lower risks of many type of cancer. The research looked at data from 12 studies with more than a million people and compared cancer risks for people who did the most leisure-time activity versus those who did the least. Again, it was found there is a reduced incidence – 10 to 40 percent – seen for cancers of the esophagus, liver, lung, kidney, endometrium, stomach, colon, bladder, and breast. The one cancer that was associated with an increased risk to physical activity was malignant melanoma. This is most likely due to people who spend a lot of time outdoors exercising and live in geographical regions with strong sunlight.
Overall, these two studies support the importance of practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors as a key component of cancer reduction and prevention.