A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of colon cancer

Even those who have a slightly increased risk due to genetic factors can reduce their risk by following a healthy lifestyle.


Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, and the third for men. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in 21 men and 1 in 23 women in the United States will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime.

Michael Hoffmeister from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in a new study, suggests that “Among other things, nutritional and lifestyle habits are responsible for this. But everyone can reduce their risk of colon cancer by taking care to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

The study was conducted on 4000 bowel cancer patients and 3000 healthy control subjects. Scientists analyzed the impacts of five lifestyle factors that can be affected: smoking or non-smoking, high or low alcohol consumption, unhealthy or healthy nourishment, little or a great deal of physical action and overweight or normal weight.

Hoffmeister said, “The more healthy lifestyle factors the participants combined, the lower was their risk of developing bowel cancer. Thus for example participants, who did not smoke, adhered to a healthy diet, and were physically active, had already a lower intestine cancer risk than participants, who stuck with none of the five life-style factors to the healthy variant. Those who cultivated a consistently healthy lifestyle had the lowest risk of colon cancer.”

Prudence Carr, the first author of the study said, “The five lifestyle factors proved to be of about equal importance in colorectal cancer prevention. It played a subordinate role whether it was the non-smoking, healthy diet or physical activity that was heeded. With all variants, the study participants reduced their risk of colorectal cancer. The relationship between lifestyle and colorectal cancer risk was also independent of the study participants’ family history. It did not matter whether they had had a colonoscopy in the past or not.”

“The recommendation to live a healthy lifestyle applies to everyone, regardless of their genetic risk of colon cancer. And, of course, not only the risk of colon cancer is reduced by a healthier lifestyle. At the same time, the risk of cardiovascular diseases and many other diseases decreases.”

Scientists are further planning to investigate to what extent the risk of colon cancer can be reduced by several preventive measures – for example through a healthier lifestyle and the performance of preventive examinations – despite a slightly increased genetic risk.

Prudence R. Carr, Korbinian Weigl, Lina Jansen, Viola Walter, Vanessa Erben, Jenny Chang-Claude, Hermann Brenner, Michael Hoffmeister. Healthy Lifestyle Factors Associated With Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer Irrespective of Genetic Risk. Gastroenterology 2018.

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