Leading a Healthy Life Reduced Risk for Bowel Cancer

Healthy choices like exercising and eating healthily reduced risk for colorectal cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Medical procedures like colonoscopies and chemotherapy can be great screening tools and treatments for bowel cancer. But patients may be able to take measures at home to reduce their risk for this disease.

New research has found that lifestyle choices, such as what patients eat or whether they smoke, can make a big difference in patients' risk for bowel cancer, which is also known as colorectal cancer.

The new study found that more healthy choices lowered patients' risk for bowel cancer. This was especially true for men.

The research was done by Krasimira Aleksandrova, PhD, MPH, of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, Germany, and colleagues.

The study authors identified five areas where a patient could make healthy choices.

Healthy choices included keeping a healthy weight, having little belly fat, getting regular exercise, not smoking and not drinking too much and eating a healthy diet. A healthy diet consists of fruits, vegetables, fish, yogurt, nuts and seeds — and not much red or processed meat.

“I’ve worked with thousands of clients trying to get healthy results," said Jim Crowell, head coach at Optimum Performance Training in Scottsdale, AZ, in an interview with dailyRx News. "When a client makes positive lifestyle choices in terms of a more healthy diet, more physical activity, less or no alcohol, and quitting smoking they have almost all been rewarded with a healthier body weight. But, more importantly, those factors almost always lead those clients to better medical reports from their doctors. Excess body weight and excess 'junk' in the system (food, alcohol, nicotine etc) can cause the body to turn into a breeding ground for disease. Taking those nasty factors off of the table should really help people see healthier results for the long haul.”

The study authors found that, compared to someone who followed only one factor for a healthy life, each extra healthy lifestyle choice lowered that person’s risk for bowel cancer. People who made two healthy lifestyle choices had a 13 percent lower risk for bowel cancer. Three choices meant a 21 percent lower risk for the disease, four choices meant a 34 percent reduced risk and all five healthy choices lowered risk by 37 percent.

The study authors reviewed data from 347,237 Europeans in 10 countries characterized by western lifestyles. These Europeans were believed to eat and live lifestyles similar to people living in the US. The patients filled out a survey about their height, weight, and lifestyle choices and were followed for about 12 years. They were all between 25 and 70 years old at the start of the study. By the end, 3,759 people had bowel cancer.

If all the patients in the study had followed the five combined healthy lifestyle choices, 22 percent of cases of bowel cancer in men could have been prevented, the authors wrote. For women, 11 percent of the cases could have been prevented.

"These data provide additional incentive to individuals, medical professionals and public health authorities to invest in healthy lifestyle initiatives," Dr. Aleksandrova said in a press release. "Each person can contribute a lot to avoid cancer, the more healthy lifestyle changes, the better."

This study was published Oct. 10 in BMC Medicine.

The European Commission and the International Agency for Research on Cancer funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 12, 2014
Last Updated:
October 20, 2014