Reducing your risk for cancer can be as simple as walking your dog or dancing in your living room: About 20 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States are related to modifiable factors like physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. When tobacco use and exposure is considered, these modifiable issues are believed to be factors in two-thirds of U.S. cancer deaths.

Although a healthy lifestyle doesn't guarantee you won't get cancer — there are those non-modifiable factors, like genetics, to consider— it can substantially reduce an individual’s risk of being diagnosed. In fact, new research published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests that people who adhere to cancer prevention guidelines can reduce all cancer incidence rates by 10 to 45 percent. They can also reduce risk of death from any cancer by 14 to 61 percent.

Researchers looked at 12 studies published within the past 10 years that analyzed adherence to cancer prevention guidelines from leading cancer organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Study participants ranged in age, from 25 to 79 years of age at baseline, and were mostly white.

Results showed a consistent reduction in incidence rates of breast cancer (19 to 60 percent reduction), endometrial cancer (23 to 60 percent reduction), and colorectal cancer (27 to 52 percent reduction) in both men and women. However, there were no significant associations between adhering to cancer prevention guideline and a reduction in the incidence of ovarian or prostate cancer; and lung cancer varied depending on the study, researchers said.

The reviewed studies compared individuals with high adherence to cancer prevention guidelines to those with lower adherence, too. They found that people who followed more of the cancer prevention recommendations saw stronger benefits. For example, one study found that women who followed at least five recommendations were 60 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn’t adhere to the cancer prevention guidelines. And for each recommendation met, the risk of breast cancer dropped by 11 percent.

"If you adhere to these guidelines, you may reduce your risk of getting or dying from cancer, though the risk is not totally eliminated," lead study author Lindsay N. Kohler, a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, said in a press release. "However, following these recommendations will lead to healthier lives overall and, in turn, reduce the risk for many major diseases."

Kohler recognizes her research is limited in that she and her team were only able to summarize information "without establishing causality or specific reductions in cancer risk." And while Kohler declares no conflict of interest, her report was funded by the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center.

While family history and environmental factors play a big role in cancer development, Kohler believes that adhering to cancer prevention guidelines can help lower the risk of the disease they have a genetic predisposition to, as well as other types of cancer. She said, "the review indicates that physicians and public health officials should continue to emphasize cancer prevention recommendations to patients."

Source: Kohler L, Garcia D, Harris R, Oren E, Roe D, Jacobs E. Adherence to Diet and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention Guidelines and Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2016.

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