Adopting multiple healthy behaviors may significantly reduce the risk for bowel cancer, according to a recent study.
Bowel cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is the second most common cancer in men and the third most common cancer in women worldwide, with 55 percent cases occurring in developed regions such as North America and Western Europe.
Researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke quantified the impact of combined multiple healthy lifestyle behaviors on the risk of developing bowel cancer, and found that this impact is stronger in men than in women.
“These data provide additional inventive to individuals, medical professionals and public health authorities to invest healthy lifestyle initiatives,” said Krasimira Aleksandrova, lead author of the study. “Each person can contribute a lot to avoid cancer, the healthier lifestyle changes, the better.”
For the study, researchers analyzed the data 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 was composed by 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.
The research team found that 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 percent lower risk of developing bowel cancer, respectively.
“Estimates based on our study populations suggest that up to 22 percent of the cases in men and 11 percent of the cases in women would have been prevented if all five of the healthy lifestyle behaviors had been followed,” Aleksandrova said. “Our results particularly demonstrate the potential for prevention in men who are at a higher risk of bowel cancer than women.”
The findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine.