Good Health Before Cancer: A Survival Booster

Colorectal cancer survival was higher in patients who exercised and maintained a healthy weight and diet

(RxWiki News) A healthy lifestyle — marked by healthy eating, exercise and a healthy weight — can help prevent cancer. In patients who get cancer, that same lifestyle may help them live longer.

A new study found that following guidelines on diet, physical activity and weight might mean improved odds of survival in colorectal cancer patients.

Dora Romaguera, MD, PhD, of Imperial College London and CIBER-OBN in Madrid, Spain, led this study.

Dr. Romaguera and team studied over 520,000 patients who had been enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study. Nearly 3,300 patients developed colorectal cancer during this study.

"Current advice given to cancer survivors about lifestyle is to follow the same lifestyle recommendations for cancer prevention," Dr. Romaguera said in a press release. "... [W]e wanted to see if following these recommendations [was] associated with the survivability of bowel cancer."

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that forms within the tissues of the colon. 

All patients in this study answered surveys about their medical history, diet and lifestyle. Patient heights and weights were also recorded.

A scoring system was devised based on the patients meeting a series of guidelines on body weight, exercise and diet. Men were rated on a 6-point scale, while women were rated on a 7-point scale. Higher scores meant the patients were meeting more guidelines.

Higher scores were tied to a lower risk of death in colorectal cancer patients, Dr. Romaguera and colleagues found.

Men with a score of 4 or greater were 31 percent less likely to die due to colorectal cancer than those with lower scores. Similarly, women with a score of 5 or greater had a 28 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer death.

Dr. Romaguera and team found that meeting the guidelines for overall body fat and consumption of plant-based foods were the most important factors in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer death.

"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, do not only prevent developing bowel cancer but, in those who eventually develop it, it improves survival," Dr. Romaguera said.

Patients should discuss with their doctors what body weights, exercise levels and diets are healthiest for them.

This study was published online May 7 in the journal BMC Medicine.

Grants from the World Cancer Research Fund International Regular Grant Programme and other groups funded this research. Dr. Romaguera and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 7, 2015