Healthy lifestyles could cut cancer deaths in half, researchers say


Photo: Christopher Futcher/iStockphoto

Boston – Healthy living could prevent half of all cancer deaths, and close to half of all cancer diagnoses could potentially be prevented, according to a recent study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Researchers examined data about lifestyle and cancer from nearly 90,000 women and more than 46,000 men from the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and national cancer statistics. Participants were considered to have a healthy lifestyle if they met the following four criteria:

  • Never smoked or had quit smoking
  • Consumed little to no alcohol – no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men
  • Had a body mass index between 18.5 and 27.5
  • Participated in at least 75 vigorous-intensity or 150 moderate-intensity minutes of physical activity per week

Researchers found that a healthy lifestyle could have a significant effect on preventing lung cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer and kidney cancer. They estimated that 63 percent of cancer cases and 67 percent of cancer deaths were potentially preventable among men. Among women, 41 percent of cancer cases and 59 percent of cancer deaths were preventable.

“As a society, we need to avoid procrastination induced by thoughts that chance drives all cancer risk or that new medical discoveries are needed to make major gains against cancer, and instead we must embrace the opportunity to reduce our collective cancer toll by implementing effective prevention strategies and changing the way we live,” researchers Graham A. Colditz and Siobhan Sutcliffe, of the Washington University School of Medicine, said in a press release.

The findings from this study contradict research conducted in 2015 that indicated “most cancers are due to random cell mutations and therefore not preventable,” the release states.

The study was published online May 19 in JAMA Oncology.

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