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Colon Cancer Risks Closely Related to Diet, Exercise, And Smoking

July 8, 2009

A recent research review proposes that risk of colon cancer can be reduced by simply limiting intake of red meat and alcohol and increasing exercise, Reuters reported. 

By practicing these key lifestyle choices, in conjunction with refraining from smoking, the cancer could potentially be prevented, according to findings in this study combined with 100 other previous studies on colon cancer risk factors. 

A diet consisting of large amounts of red and processed meats, smoking, obesity and diabetes, researchers found, contributed to 20 percent increase in the threat of colorectal cancer.  Individuals who engaged in regular exercise, however, were 20 percent less likely to develop the disease than their inactive counterparts.

In addition to the effects that lifestyle choices in healthy diet and physical activity play in prevention of colon cancer, these same practices can prevent or at the very least help manage type-2 diabetes and obesity, researchers noted in their report published in the International Journal of Cancer.

But even more important than diet and exercise, drinking habits proved the most significant lifestyle factor, according to the research team, directed by Dr. Rachel R. Huxley of the George Institute for International Health in Sydney, Australia.

Evidence in all of the studies concluded that adults who averaged a drink a day or more had a 60 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer, compared to adults who drank little or nothing at all. 

The central point of all of this, Huxley said, is that “colorectal cancer is a disease of lifestyle and that modifying inappropriate behaviors now — such as reducing alcohol intake, quitting smoking and losing weight — has the potential to substantially reduce a person’s risk of the disease.”

This is likely to be consistent in all adults, she added, including for individuals who possess risks of colon cancer due to hereditary predisposition.

Huxley’s team also noted the World Cancer Research Fund suggested in a 2007 report that there was “convincing” evidence that obesity and high intake of red meat and alcohol contribute to colon cancer.  But smoking and diabetes have not been studied as consistently, and typically these behaviors are combined with drinking, physical inactivity, and eating a diet high in meant, making it hard to determine the effect of each individual behavior.

The findings of this most recent study, the researchers write, reveal that smoking and diabetes are just as significant of a contributor to colon cancer as obesity and red meat consumption.

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