A study in JAMA Oncology dated May 19, 2016 reported that a healthy lifestyle prevents cancer. Two health studies were pooled, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. This included 89,571 Caucasian women and 46,399 Caucasian men. These were divided into those who followed a healthy lifestyle. The rest were considered to follow an unhealthy lifestyle.
Criteria for a healthy lifestyle were:
- No smoking or past smoker more than 5 years ago
- Moderate or no alcohol consumption (no more than one drink a day for women and two for men)
- Body mass index between 18.5 and 27.5
- Regular aerobic exercise (at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week)
After this stratification there was a low-risk group, which contained 21% of all participants (12% women and 9% men). The remaining 79% were classified as high risk (54% women and 25% men).
Healthy lifestyle prevents cancer, statistics
First of all, the incidence of cancer expressed per 100,000 people was 463 for women and 283 for men in the low risk group. In addition, for the high risk group the cancer incidence was 618 for women and 425 for men. The researchers concluded that 25% of cancers in women and 33% of cancers in men in this study were due to lifestyle factors. Next cancer deaths were measured and lifestyle risks were factored in. 48% of cancer deaths in women and 44% of cancer deaths in men were directly related to poor lifestyle habits. Here is a table that depicts the percentage of lifestyle risks in various cancers:
Gender: Women Men
Lung cancer: 82% 78%
Bowel cancer: 29% 30%
Pancreas cancer: 30% 29%
Bladder cancer: 36% 44%
Let’s say you remove the lifestyle risks from the bulleted list above. You would reduce the particular cancer by the percentage indicated in this table. Lung cancer is one that is extremely dependent on healthy lifestyle, pancreas cancer is less so.
In conclusion, in this US white population study about 20% to 40% of cancer cases could have been prevented. Because you modify your lifestyle, you prevent cancer. In addition changing lifestyles could also have prevented approximately 50% of all cancer deaths. The researchers related these results to the white US population at large. They found that these figures increased to 40% to 70% of cancer cases that could have been prevented. The reason is that these studies were done among health professionals. This is a slightly healthier subpopulation, even in the control group compared to the US population at large.
This was a Caucasian study that did not include Hispanics or African Americans. But it clearly shows that a healthy lifestyle can prevent cancer. The researchers felt that the findings likely would translate into the whole US population. However, such studies would have to be conducted in order to prove this.
In the meantime I suggest you watch your weight keeping the BMI below 27.5. Don’t smoke, because your lungs do better without it. Stay away from alcohol or if you must drink, keep your consumptions at or below these limits. 1 drink for women and two drinks for men per day. Finally, don’t forget to exercise regularly. It will keep you healthy. Not only in terms of preventing cancer, but also in terms of preserving your cardiovascular health.