Sasa Prudkov/ShutterstockCancer is a scary—and often confusing—disease. Although the fight against cancer isn’t over yet, preventing it may be simpler than you think. In fact, new research shows that about half of all deaths from cancer (and 20 to 40 percent of cancer cases overall!) could be avoided if each of us made a few lifestyle changes. (Here are 30 more things you can do to prevent cancer.)
A new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology says that exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy BMI, and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes could be the key to staying cancer-free.
The researchers gathered data on 130,000 white people from two long-running studies, dividing them into two lifestyle groups. Those who were considered “low risk”—or healthier—fell into the first group, while the second group contained “high risk” participants. Then, the researchers evaluated the likelihood that people in each group would be diagnosed with cancers of the lung, breast, pancreas, bladder, etc.
According to the final data, the low-risk group was less likely to develop and die from those forms of cancer than both the high-risk group and the white American population as a whole. Eating these foods can lower your cancer risk, too.
This study provides “an updated picture” of the lifestyle factors that influence cancer, lead author Mingyang Song, MD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, told Health.
However, this is a limited study in that it only included white people. The researchers decided to exclude the small proportion of non-white participants for two reasons: One, the participants used in the longitudinal studies are predominantly white, and secondly, the researchers wanted to “avoid any influence that different ethnic distribution would make on our findings,” Dr. Song said.
So, what can we learn from the healthy, low-risk individuals? For starters, most didn’t smoke at all or had been smoke-free for at least five years. They also didn’t drink (or drank in moderation!), meaning that women had no more than one drink per day, and men had no more than two. They all maintained a healthy BMI, ranging between 18.5 and 27.5. And finally, they were regular exercisers; most of the study participants either performed vigorous exercise for 75 minutes per week or moderate exercise for 150 minutes per week.
That may be a lot to grasp at once, but here’s the one major takeaway: Striving toward a healthy lifestyle really does make a huge difference. On the flip side, doing these things increases your cancer risk.