Health experts aren’t sure exactly what causes colorectal cancer. Many factors may play a part. These include a family history of the disease and your age. They have also yet to pinpoint how to prevent the cancer. But a recent study found that adopting five healthy habits may be the key.
Lowering your Risk In the journal BMC Medicine, researchers set out to test if a certain lifestyle pattern might lower a person’s risk for colorectal cancer. To do so, they first created a healthy lifestyle index. This index took into account five behaviors:
1. Staying at a healthy weight
2. Not smoking
3. Getting regular physical activity—at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most or all days of the week
4. Limiting alcohol—no more than 2 drinks for men and 1 for women in a day
5. Eating a healthy diet—more fruits, vegetables and fish, but less red and processed meats
With this index in hand, researchers rated the lifestyles of more than 173,500 adults for 12 or more years. What did they find? Each healthy behavior that a person followed lowered his or her chance for colorectal cancer by 12%. Combining all five could amount to a 60% drop in risk for the disease.
The Benefits Add Up
Many people struggle to keep up healthy habits. Nineteen percent of Americans still smoke. Eight out of ten people don’t exercise enough. And nearly one-third are overweight or obese. Yet, making just one lifestyle change may help. For instance, adding more fiber through fruit, vegetables and whole grains to your diet may lower your risk for colorectal cancer.
Need more incentive than that to strive for a healthy lifestyle? Consider this: You may also live longer. Past research has noted longer life spans in people who adopt healthy habits. Following three or more of them can add up to many more years. They can lower your chance for heart disease and other related conditions. Ongoing studies have also noted a drop in other types of cancer, such as those of the lung and breast, when people stop smoking or make other healthy changes.