Healthy Lifestyle Reduces the Risk of Colon Cancer, Study Suggests

A colon cancer risk assessment study found that individuals who follow a healthy eating and exercise lifestyle reduce their likelihood of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.

A colon cancer risk assessment study found that individuals who follow a healthy eating and exercise lifestyle reduce their likelihood of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer (CRC). The findings are important because the 27,000 individuals from around the world who responded to the survey lacked a family history of the disease.

The online survey was developed by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic to provide participants information on their CRC risk. Survey respondents gave information on personal and family history of CRC and polyps. Additionally, demographic information such as age, gender, ethnicity, height, weight, dietary factors, smoking history, and physical activity was documented.

“Colon cancer has had significant decline in the US since 1980 when colorectal cancer screening was first introduced, but these results show screening for the disease—and adherence to a healthy lifestyle—appear woefully underutilized,” said Carol A. Burke, MD, gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic and the current president of the American College of Gastroenterology. Burke is a co-investigator on the survey study.

The authors found that less than 10% of respondents ate at least 5 servings of fruit, vegetables, and grains per day. Only about 25% exercised for at least a half hour, 4 times a week.

The authors also observed a gap in awareness on screening guidelines—only 36% of respondents were up to date with current CRC screening, as recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force. A majority of those who adhered to screening guides were white, women, and had less exposure to cigarettes. Knowledge about the family history of CRC was a significant influence as well: respondents who had a first-degree relative with CRC and polyps were more likely to adhere to screening (35.7% vs 19.4%).

“Our hope by providing this online assessment is that individuals could take it, print out the results with the call to action and take it to their physicians to start the colorectal cancer screening conversation,” said Burke. The knowledge can also help physicians identify the patient population that needs to undergo screening.

The study was presented at the ongoing Digestive Disease Week 2017.