The start of a New Year is often associated with making a promise to participate in activities to better our health. However, staying the course and following through on our resolutions is never an easy task as even the best intentions become a challenge.
New research, however, may provide the extra motivation to help us stick with our new goals.
A new UK study suggests adherence to our new health choices may reduce the risk of cancer by a third. Meaningfully, the study clearly shows the tangible benefits of adopting health behaviors.
The research, led by Professor Peter Elwood of Cardiff University, appears online in ecancermedicalscience.
The Cardiff investigators examined preliminary data from the UK Biobank, a prospective study of half a million subjects.
They sorted through the data to identify healthy behaviors — which include not smoking, maintaining a low BMI, participating in regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and limiting alcohol intake — and compared them to the risk of cancer over several years.
They discovered the collection of healthy behaviors contributed to a total reduction of about one-third in cancer risk and possibly a greater reduction in cancer mortality.
These results may not sound surprising. Most people are aware that healthy behaviors have some general benefit — otherwise they wouldn’t be “healthy.”
Experts believe the study is valuable as often the real problem is translating the vague idea of lifestyle choices being “good” into useful evidence.
Next comes the challenge of translating this evidence to useful (and realistic!) recommendations.
“Perhaps the advice to take up one additional healthy behavior is the most acceptable message for most subjects,” says Professor Peter Elwood.
“In our study each additional healthy behavior was associated with a reduction of about eight percent in cancer, independent of the effects of the other behaviors.”
“The take-home message is that healthy behaviors can have a truly tangible benefit.”
Professor Elwood adds, “A healthy lifestyle has may benefits additional to cancer reduction — it costs nothing, has no undesirable side effects…. and is better than any pill!”