Healthy lifestyle can cut cancer deaths by half, finds new US study

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A new large-scale US study has found that many cancer cases and deaths in individuals could be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.

The team of researchers, from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, looked at data from two study groups of white participants to examine the possible associations between a “healthy lifestyle pattern” and the rate of cancer cases and deaths from the disease — the leading cause of death in the United States.

They defined a “healthy lifestyle pattern” as being a non-smoker or ex-smoker; no alcohol or moderate drinking of alcohol (one or less drink a day for women, two or less drinks a day for men); having a BMI of between 18.5 and 27.5,; and partaking in moderate exercise for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous exercise for at least 75 minutes a week.

The study included 89,571 women and 46,399 men in total. 16,531 women and 11,731 met all four of the healthy lifestyle criteria and were considered to be at a low risk from cancer.Everyone else — 73,040 women and 34,608 men — was considered high risk.

The authors then compared the number of cancer cases and cancer deaths between the two study groups and against the US population to estimate the proportion of cancer that could be prevented in the high-risk group if individuals adopted the healthy lifestyle pattern of the low-risk group, and the proportion that could be prevented in the US population.

Their results showed that around 20 percent to 40 percent of cancer cases and around 50 percent of cancer deaths could potentially be prevented through making lifestyle changes and adopting the healthy lifestyle pattern of the low-risk group.

The authors acknowledged that as their study included only white individuals, the same results may not be found other ethnic groups. However the lifestyle factors that were considered to be cancer risk factors in this study have also been found to be risk factors in other ethnic groups in previous studies.

Commenting on the results the authors emphasized the importance of lifestyle factors in determining the risk of cancer, and advised that adopting a healthier lifestyle and focusing on prevention “should remain a priority for cancer control.”

 

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