Healthy behavior associated with reduced risk of developing bowel cancer.

healthybehA study released by researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition-Rehbruecke has analyzed the impact of a combined multiple healthy lifestyle behavior on the the risk of developing bowel cancer.

Colorectal cancer, is the second most common cancer in men and the third most common cancer in women worldwide, with 55% cases occurring in developed regions such as North America and Western Europe.

The findings demonstrate conclusively that a healthy lifestyle has a strong impact on men and reduces the risk of cancer. The more healthy lifestyle factors the cohort adopted, the lower their risk of bowel cancer. Compared to people who had followed up to one healthy lifestyle behavior, those who practiced a combination of two, three, four and all the five healthy behaviors had a 13%, 21%, 34% and 37% lower risk of developing bowel cancer, respectively. The authors noted a difference between men and women.

Lead research author of the study, Krasimira Aleksandrova, said: “These data provide additional incentive to individuals, medical professionals and public health authorities to invest in healthy lifestyle initiatives. Each person can contribute a lot to avoid cancer, the more healthy lifestyle changes, the better.”

The study analyzed the data of 347,237 men and women from 10 countries from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study using a healthy lifestyle index. Over the 12-year study period, 3,759 cases of bowel cancer were recorded.

The healthy lifestyle index and behavior consisted of the following lifestyle factors: a healthy weight; low abdominal fat; participating in regular physical activity; not smoking and limiting alcohol; and a diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish, yoghurt, nuts and seeds, and foods rich in fiber, and low amounts of red and processed meat. For each of the five behaviors, study subjects were assigned one point for having the healthy factor and zero for not having the healthy factor. These points were then summed to generate a cumulative score for each participant.

“Our data confirmed that with an increasing number of healthy lifestyle behaviors the risk that a person will have of developing bowel cancer decreases.” “Estimates based on our study populations suggest that up to 22% of the cases in men and 11% of the cases in women would have been prevented if all five of the healthy lifestyle behaviors had been followed. Our results particularly demonstrate the potential for prevention in men who are at a higher risk of bowel cancer than women,” said Krasimira Aleksandrova.


Krasimira Aleksandrova, Tobias Pischon, Mazda Jenab, H Bueno-de-Mesquita, Veronika Fedirko, Teresa Norat, Dora Romaguera, Sven Knüppel, Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault, Laure Dossus, Laureen Dartois, Rudolf Kaaks, Kuanrong Li, Anne Tjønneland, Kim Overvad, José Quirós, Genevieve Buckland, María Sánchez, Miren Dorronsoro, Maria-Dolores Chirlaque, Aurelio Barricarte, Kay-Tee Khaw, Nicholas J Wareham, Kathryn E Bradbury, Antonia Trichopoulou, Pagona Lagiou, Dimitrios Trichopoulos, Domenico Palli, Vittorio Krogh, Rosario Tumino, Alessio Naccarati, Salvatore Panico, Peter D Siersema, Petra Peeters, Ingrid Ljuslinder, Ingegerd Johansson, Ulrika Ericson, Bodil Ohlsson, Elisabete Weiderpass, Guri Skeie, Kristin Borch, Sabina Rinaldi, Isabelle Romieu, Joyce Kong, Marc J Gunter, Heather A Ward, Elio Riboli, Heiner Boeing. Combined impact of healthy lifestyle factors on colorectal cancer: a large European cohort study. BMC Medicine, 2014; 12 (1): 168 DOI: 10.1186/s12916-014-0168-4

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