Boston | Upto 40 per cent of cancer cases and about half of cancer deaths could be prevented by adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and avoiding heavy alcohol use.
A large proportion of cancer cases and deaths among US individuals who are white could be prevented if people quit smoking, avoid heavy drinking, maintain a BMI between 18.5 and 27.5, and do moderate weekly exercise for at least 150 minutes or vigorous exercise for at least 75 minutes, according to the researchers.
Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in the US analysed data from two study groups of white individuals to examine the associations between a healthy lifestyle pattern and cancer incidence and death.
A healthy lifestyle pattern was defined as never or past smoking; no or moderate drinking of alcohol (one or less drink a day for women, two or less drinks a day for men); BMI of at least 18.5 but lower than 27.5; and weekly aerobic physical activity of at least 150 minutes moderate intensity or 75 minutes vigorous intensity.
Individuals who met all four criteria were considered low risk and everyone else was high risk. The study included 89,571 women and 46,399 men; 16,531 women and 11,731 had a healthy lifestyle pattern (low-risk group) and the remaining 73,040 women and 34,608 men were high risk.
The researchers calculated population-attributable risk (PAR), which can be interpreted as the proportion of cases that would not occur if all the individuals adopted the healthy lifestyle pattern of the low-risk group.
They suggest about 20 per cent to 40 per cent of cancer cases and about half of cancer deaths could potentially be prevented through modifications to adopt the healthy lifestyle pattern of the low-risk group.
The researchers note that including only white individuals in their PAR estimates may not be generalisable to other ethnic groups but the factors they considered have been established as risk factors in diverse ethnic groups too.
These findings reinforce the predominate importance of lifestyle factors in determining cancer risk. Therefore, primary prevention should remain a priority for cancer control, researchers said.
Subscribe to our email newsletter.