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Health: Greater Adherence to Lifestyle Recommendations Associated with Lower Cancer Risk

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Greater adherence to the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) cancer prevention recommendations – which encourage a healthy lifestyle – is associated with a lower risk of all cancers combined and some individual cancers such as breast cancer. The findings are published in BMC Medicine.

The 2018 WCRF/AICR cancer prevention recommendations aim to reduce the risk of cancer by encouraging individuals to maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, and eat a diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, and beans, but low in highly processed foods, red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened drinks, and alcohol.

John Mathers and colleagues investigated the relationship between adherence to the WCRF/AICR recommendations and cancer risk by analysing UK Biobank data for 94,778 British adults, who were 56 years old on average. The researchers used self-reported dietary and physical activity data – in addition to participants’ body mass index and waist circumference measurements – to score participants’ adherence to the recommendations out of a maximum score of seven points. They used cancer registry data to calculate the incidence of new cancers that developed over an average period of eightyears. They accounted for age, sex, socioeconomic deprivation, ethnicity, and smoking status in their analyses. The average recommendation adherence score was 3.8 points, and 7,296 participants (8%) developed cancer during the study period.

The authors found that greater adherence to the WCRF/AICR recommendations was associated with a lower risk of all cancers combined, with each one-point increase in recommendation adherence score associated with a 7% lower risk. Compared to those with an adherence scores of 3.5 points or less, those with a score of 4.5 points or above had a 16% lower risk of all cancers combined. They also found that each one-point increase in adherence score was associated with a 10% lower risk of breast cancer, a 10% lower risk of colorectal cancer, an 18% lower risk of kidney cancer, a 16% lower risk of oesophageal cancer, a 22% lower risk of liver cancer, a 24% lower risk of ovarian cancer, and a 30% lower risk of gallbladder cancer.

The findings support compliance with the WCRF/AICR recommendations for cancer prevention in the UK, however the authors note that the observational nature of their study does not allow for conclusions about a causal relationship between WCRF/AICR recommendation adherence and cancer risk. The authors add that further research is needed to investigate which recommendations may be driving the observed association between recommendation adherence and cancer risk.

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