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Healthy Lifestyle Linked to Cutting Colorectal Cancer Risk

Following a healthy lifestyle, which means exercising, having a good diet, and other lifestyle changes, is associated with reducing the risk of colorectal cancer by 23%, according to a study from Denmark.

Study Details

Researchers evaluated data on 55,487 men and women aged 50 to 64 who had not been diagnosed with cancer. The patients were followed for nearly a decade up to 2006. During the study period, 678 people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

The participants all answered surveys about their health habits, including smoking, diet and exercising. Healthy lifestyle recommendations included avoiding smoking; eating a healthy diet; being physically active at least 30 minutes a day; and having a waist circumference of no more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

The researchers found that:

  • When participants followed all healthy lifestyle recommendations, they cut their risk for colorectal cancer by 23%.

  • Only 1% of the group scored the highest on the healthy lifestyle index, meaning that they consistently followed all of the healthy lifestyle recommendations.

  • People who scored highest on the healthy lifestyle index ate more dietary fiber, fruits, and vegetables and less processed red meat than people who scored the lowest.

  • An estimated 13% of colorectal cancer cases might have been avoided if participants had complied with just one additional healthy lifestyle recommendation.

  • The association between lifestyle and colorectal cancer was more pronounced in men than in women, though the reason for this is unclear.

These latest study results echo the findings from other studies showing an association between living a healthier lifestyle and a reduced risk for colorectal cancer.

"Colorectal cancer is predominantly a disease of Westernized countries, indicating that components of a Western lifestyle may contribute to risk," the team wrote in the journal article.

"Our study reveals the useful public health message that even modest differences in lifestyle might have a substantial impact on colorectal cancer risk and emphasizes the importance of continuing vigorous efforts to convince people to follow the lifestyle recommendations."

Research Paper Details:

Kirkegaard H, Johnsen NF, Christensen J, et al. Association of adherence to lifestyle recommendations and risk of colorectal cancer: a prospective Danish cohort study. BMJ 2010; 341:c5504.