Following lifestyle guidelines about diet, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight is associated with an improved likelihood of survival when diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The study, conducted by a group researchers led by a team from Imperial College London, analyzed the data of 520,000 participants from 10 countries in the European
Current advice given to cancer survivors about lifestyle is to follow the same lifestyle recommendations for cancer prevention. The researchers wanted to see if following these recommendations were associated with the survivability of colorectal cancer.
At the start of the study, participants completed questionnaires about their medical history, diet and lifestyle. Weight and height measurements were also taken. During the study period of an average of 6.4 years, 3,292 participants were diagnosed with bowel cancer.
The researchers developed a scoring system based on joint guidelines from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research with recommendations on cancer prevention. These guidelines have also been recommended to cancer survivors due to the lack of specific guidelines for survivors.
A six-point score was constructed for men based on recommendations in the guidelines about body weight, physical activity, food and drinks that promote weight gain, plant foods (which includes vegetable, fruit, legumes and grains), meat-based food, and alcoholic drinks. Women had seven-point score based on the previous six recommendations and whether or not they had breastfed. Points were allocated based on meeting these recommendations.
Men who had a lifestyle score of 3 or more points were more likely to survive bowel cancer. For women, a score of 4 or above was associated with increased survival; in both cases, the higher the score, the lower the risk of mortality after bowel cancer.
When the individual recommendations were studied, it was found that having a healthy weight and high consumption of plant foods had the strongest associations with survival. There was also an association seen with women who breastfed and survival of bowel cancer. This has been seen for breast cancer before but is the first time it has been seen in bowel cancer.
Due to the design of this study, it was not possible to demonstrate what would happen if these lifestyle habits were acquired after cancer diagnosis. Also, lifestyle was measured only once so it is not possible to know if lifestyle habits changed during follow-up or after cancer diagnosis.
The results of this study demonstrate that a healthy lifestyle in your adult life, in line with recommendations on diet, physical activity and body weight for cancer prevention, not only prevent developing bowel cancer but, in those who eventually developed it, it also improves survival.
Source: BMC Medicine, 2015.
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