More specifically, it’s the number of lives that a recent study published in JAMA Oncology found could be saved if people adopted four simple lifestyle habits. Almost half of the 1,685,210 new cancer cases that the American Cancer Association estimates will be diagnosed in 2016, and 595,690 cancer deaths in the U.S. this year, could be prevented, according to the research.
The study conducted at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital and School of Public Health followed more than 130,000 participants from two large ongoing studies that were examining the health and lifestyles of male and female (predominantly white) health professionals. The participants were divided into low-risk and high-risk groups. The low-risk group included those who:
- Did not smoke
- Drank only moderately (defined as no more than one alcoholic drink a day for women and no more than two for men)
- Had a body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 27.5
- Exercised either moderately for 150 minutes a week or vigorously for 75 minutes a week.
The findings were eye-opening: If all U.S. women followed the behaviors of the low-risk group, cancer cases and cancer deaths would decline by 41 percent and 59 percent, respectively. Among men, cancer cases would drop by 63 percent, and cancer deaths would decline by 67 percent. Furthermore, if all American women adopted the low-risk behaviors, they would lower their:
- lung cancer risk by 85 percent
- colorectal cancer risk by more than 50 percent
- pancreatic cancer risk by 53 percent
- breast cancer risk by 15 percent.
If all U.S. men adopted the low-risk behaviors, their bladder cancer risk would fall by 62 percent and their prostate cancer risk would decline by 40 percent.
Even if your math is a little rusty, those numbers should be a wake-up call.
Your homework? Adopt the Fab Four lifestyle behaviors to lower your risk of cancer:
- Don’t smoke
- Drink alcohol moderately
- Maintain a healthy BMI
- Exercise regularly.
Oh, and #5: do your homework!