Just in time for holiday indulging, a Danish study of 55,000 middle-aged men and women monitored for an average of 10 years showed a clear association between healthy lifestyle and a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer, according to a study published in a recent British Medical Journal.
“Colorectal cancer is predominantly a disease of Westernized countries, indicating that components of a Western lifestyle may contribute to risk,” researchers wrote in the journal. Yet only three prospective studies had been done—in which people without cancer were monitored over a period of time to see who developed colorectal cancer, and how lifestyle actions compared in those who did and didn’t develop it. And the three previous studies used different lifestyle factors. This study was one of the first to study the impact of five basic healthy behaviors, rather than just one.
“Our study reveals…that even modest differences in lifestyle might have a substantial impact on colorectal cancer risk,” concluded the researchers at the Institute for Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark.
Using internationally accepted health recommendations, the study found that most Danes in the study followed 4 of the 5 healthy behaviors:
- 80% were physically active at least 30 minutes daily
- 76% had a waist circumference indicating recommended weight
- 64% were nonsmokers
- 59% drank alcohol within recommended limits (fewer than 7 drinks per week for women; fewer than 14 drinks per week for men).
But lest you think the Danes have it all over Americans, only 2% followed dietary recommendations (eating at least 600 grams fruits and vegetables, eating less than 500 grams of red or processed meat per week and getting less than 30% of calories from fat.)
“If all participants had followed merely one additional recommendation, we estimate that 13% of the cases of colorectal cancer (that ensued in the next 10 years) might have been prevented,” the researchers said. “Furthermore, we estimate that 23% of the colorectal cancers in the cohort [studied] were associated with lack of adherence to the recommendations for the 5 lifestyle factors,” they concluded.
So there you have it.
For the holidays and especially beginning with a brand new year:
- Be even moderately active 30 minutes a day (walking briskly counts)
- Lose weight
- Drink moderately
- Don’t smoke
And perhaps most importantly, relax and enjoy the holidays!