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Study confirms power of healthy living for cancer patients

Millions of individuals are diagnosed every year with colon cancer, but new research suggests that adopting a healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward boosting survival. The US study followed nearly 1,000 patients with advanced colon cancer for an average of seven years. It found that people who ate right and exercised had a 42% lower risk of dying during the study period, compared to those who had less healthy lifestyles.
The new research was led by Erin Van Blarigan, from the University of California, San Francisco. She and her colleagues noted that in 2001, the American Cancer Society published guidelines advocating a healthy lifestyle during and after colon cancer treatment. To find out, Van Blarigan’s team tracked outcomes for 992 colon cancer patients who enrolled in a chemotherapy trial from 1999 through 2001. The participants’ health – and levels of nutrition and exercise – were then followed until 2016-2017.
People who most closely adhered to the lifestyle recommendations on diet and exercise fared much better in terms of survival, the data showed. And when the researchers took into account healthy alcohol intake, patients did even better – a 51% reduction in death risk during the study period. Writing in an accompanying editorial, a team of cancer specialists led by Dr Michael Fisch of AIM Specialty Health in Chicago said the findings confirm the power of healthy living for cancer patients.
It is relevant that in October 2017 it was pointed out that colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Qatar and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the country. Speaking in connection with the 5th Qatar Colorectal Conference hosted by Hamad Medical Corporation lead colorectal surgeon Dr Mohamed Abunada, explained that the disease can be caused by a number of factors, including environmental conditions, family history, consumption of high protein and fat-rich foods, alcohol, and smoking.
Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
As highlighted by general and colorectal surgeon Dr Salwa Sayed Ahmad, colorectal cancer doesn’t have early warning signs, so it’s important for patients to undergo regular screenings at their designated primary healthcare centre. As the disease progresses, people may experience blood in their stool, have pain in their belly, constipation or diarrhoea, unexplained weight loss, or fatigue. Unfortunately, by the time these symptoms appear, the disease is more difficult to treat.
According to Dr Jeffrey Farma, associate professor of surgical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, a “focus on improving lifestyle through nutrition and activity are moving to the forefront of a lot of cancer-related research for all stages of treatment.” And while the new study is encouraging, “there is still much work to be done to further validate these intriguing findings,” said Farma, who wasn’t involved with the research. The take-home message: “Having a health body weight, being physically active, and eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains after a diagnosis of stage 3 colon cancer was associated with a longer survival,” the US researchers reported last week in the journal JAMA Oncology.

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