These 4 Simple Changes Would Cut Cancer Deaths in Half

June 1st 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

A quick Google Search shows that there is no shortage of websites offering cancer prevention tips.

A google screenshot showing various cancer prevention tips

But a new study conducted by Boston-based researchers suggests that cancer prevention can be boiled down to four basic steps.

According to the study, published in "JAMA Oncology," cancer deaths could be almost cut in half if people stopped smoking cigarettes, cut back on alcohol consumption, maintained a healthy weight, and did some moderate exercise.

The study also suggests that the cutting back and exercise requirements aren't especially severe.

Smoking is out altogether, but alcohol doesn't have to be. According to the study, women are restricted to one drink or less per-day, and men to two drinks or less. Also, the study suggests that people do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week to reduce their cancer risk. That's only about 30 minutes a day, for five days a week.

Also Americans would need to keep their weight in the healthy range of body mass index between 18.5 and 27.5. You can find yours with this BMI calculator from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

BMI calculator

If Americans adopt these steps, between 40 to 50 percent of cancer deaths and 20 to 30 percent of cancer cases would be prevented according to an author of the study, Harvard University research fellow Dr. Mingyang Song.

"It reinforces the importance of lifestyle factors in cancer development," Song told ATTN:.

Researchers tracked 16,531 white women and 11,731 white men who were following these four healthy lifestyle guidelines and 73,040 white women and 34,608 white men who were not following the guidelines. The latter group was considered the high risk group. Comparing these two groups in the study, they found that 48 percent of cancer deaths in women would be prevented with a healthier lifestyle and 44 percent of cancer deaths would be prevented in men.

Song said non-white people were excluded from the study data "because the participants in our cohorts are mainly whites, we don't have enough subjects for other ethnic groups to perform any meaningful analysis."

When the researchers compared the healthy lifestyle group with statistics on the U.S. population they found an even bigger disparity. That comparison showed that 59 percent of cancer deaths in women and 67 percent in men could be prevented.

Researchers studied the types of cancer that represent about 90 percent of cancer deaths among the white U.S. population, excluding skin, brain, lymphatic, hematologic, and nonfatal prostate malignancies. Researchers wrote that those types of cancer most likely have outside environmental factors.

Song said that the this new research is important because it challenges a study from Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers last year that said cancer was mostly due to "bad luck" and not lifestyle choices.

"A paper published in 'Science' last year concluded that most cancers are due to random mutation, the so-called 'bad luck,'" Song said. "That study has created a lot of confusion for the public regarding whether cancer is preventable or not. Our study tried to clarify this using real data."

Song also said that this study was a huge tool for doctors trying to prevent cancer in their patients.

"Second, in the context of the huge interest in finding new tools for cancer screening and therapy, our study showed that simple modifications in daily lifestyles can make a tremendous impact on cancer prevention," Song said.

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