Beyond avoiding tobacco, following other cancer prevention guidelines may substantially lower your risk of premature death, according to a long-term study by the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The study looked at more than 100,000 men and women over 14 years and found nonsmokers who followed recommendations for cancer prevention had a lower risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-causes as older adults.
Few previous studies had evaluated the combined impact of following recommended lifestyle behaviors on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality, and most of those included tobacco avoidance as one of the recommendations. Since 8 in 10 Americans are never or former smokers, researchers wanted to more clearly understand the impact of other recommended behaviors.
Marji McCullough, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology at ACS, led the study. She and her colleagues used data from nearly 112,000 non-smoking men and women in a large cancer prevention study to gage the impact of lifestyle habits independent of smoking.
Participants were then scored on a range from 0 to 8 points to reflect adherence to the ACS cancer prevention guidelines regarding body mass index, physical activity, diet, and alcohol consumption, with 8 points representing adherence to all of the recommendations simultaneously.
The ACS guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity focus on four main areas:
• Maintaining a healthy body weight (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9) throughout life
• Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, above and beyond normal activities, every day
• Eating a healthy diet with at least five servings of vegetables and fruits daily, whole grains instead of processed ones, and limiting red and processed meats
• Limiting alcohol intake to no more than one drink a day for women or two for men, if you drink at all
The researchers looked at how closely people followed each of these recommendations over 14 years.