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Healthy living prevents half of cancer deaths – Study

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Half of all cancer deaths could be avoided if people simply adopted a healthier lifestyle, a major study has found.

If people stopped smoking, kept fit, slimmed down and had no more than a drink or two a day, cancer death rates would be slashed dramatically, Harvard scientists claim.

Doctors have long warned unhealthy lifestyles increase the risk of cancer in later life.

Yet just one in five women and one in four men follow the health advice, the researchers found.

The stark findings are the first to put a figure on how many lives could be saved if people took responsibility for their own health.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School today announced their findings after examining the health records of 136,000 white Americans.

They found cases of cancer would fall by 20 to 40 per cent, and deaths would drop by half, if the entire population adopted a healthy lifestyle.

The team said this would be achieved by:

* Quitting smoking,

* Doing at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week

* Consuming no more than one drink a day for women - or two for men

* Keeping to a body mass index of between 18.5 and 27.5 - which for someone with a height of 5’6’’ means a weight of 8st3lb to 12st3lb.

And if the entire population followed this well-publicised health advice:

* Deaths for lung cancer would be slashed by 80 per cent

* For bowel cancer by up to 30 per cent

* Prostate cancer by 21 per cent

* Breast cancer by 12 per cent

The authors, writing in the journal JAMA Oncology, found falling short on even one of these lifestyle patterns was enough to raise cancer risk.

They classified those who met all four criteria as ‘low risk’ and everyone else as “high risk”.

Alarmingly, they found just 18 per cent of women and 25 per cent of men ticked every box, enabling them to be classified as at low risk of cancer.

Treatments for cancer have leaped forwards in recent years, with the best new drugs able to harness the body’s immune system and blast tumours, in some cases destroying them within weeks.

But the research authors, who included doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital, said persuading people to improve their lifestyle could save more lives than any drug.

“These findings reinforce the predominate importance of lifestyle factors in determining cancer risk,” they wrote.

“Therefore, primary prevention should remain a priority for cancer control.”

British public health experts last night welcomed the findings.

Dr Anne Mackie, deputy director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “It is well known certain behaviours like drinking alcohol, smoking and being overweight can increase your risk of developing cancer.

“Cancer is not an inevitable part of aging and there are many simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it.

“PHE recently launched the One You campaign to give adults in England the tools to help them make those changes.”

Source: Daily Mail

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