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Adherence to Diet and Activity Guidelines Means Substantial Reduction in Cancer Risk

By Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN
Researchers from the University of Arizona in Tucson and the American Cancer Society conducted a systematic literature review to examine associations between adherence to established cancer prevention guidelines and overall cancer incidence and mortality. Although only 12 studies met inclusion criteria, the researchers found that inactivity, poor nutrition, excessive alcohol consumption, and being overweight or obese likely account for at least 20% of cancer cases.

Adherence to nutrition and physical activity cancer prevention guidelines was consistently and significantly associated with decreases of 10% to 61% in overall cancer incidence and mortality. Consistent significant reductions were also shown for breast cancer incidence (19%–60%), endometrial cancer incidence (23%–60%), and colorectal cancer incidence in both men and women (27%–52%). Findings for lung cancer incidence were equivocal, and no significant relationships were found between adherence and ovarian or prostate cancers.

The researchers concluded that adhering to cancer prevention guidelines for diet and physical activity is consistently associated with lower risks of overall cancer incidence and mortality, including for some site-specific cancers. Although most clinicians are already aware that good nutrition and exercise are helpful in cancer prevention, this is the most recent and most comprehensive estimation of how much the risk of cancer can potentially be reduced.
Kohler LN, Garcia DO, Harris RB, et al. Adherence to diet and physical activity cancer prevention guidelines and cancer outcomes: a systematic review. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016; 25(7):1–11.
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