A combination of five important healthy behaviors helps in reducing the risk of developing bowel cancer, a new study has revealed.
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 the impact was stronger in men than in women. Lead author, Krasimira Aleksandrova, said that the data gave an additional incentive to individuals, medical professionals and public health authorities to invest in healthy lifestyle initiatives.
The research analyzed the data of 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. For each of the five behaviors, study subjects were assigned one point for having the healthy factor and zero for not having the healthy factor. The points were then summed to generate a cumulative score for each participant.
The researchers 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 percent, 21 percent, 34 percent and 37 percent lower risk of developing bowel cancer, respectively.
The authors noted a difference between men and women, and suggested 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. They said that the results particularly demonstrated the potential for prevention in men who were at a higher risk of bowel cancer than women.
The research is published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.