KEEPING New Year resolutions such as giving up drinking or smoking can slash your risk of cancer by a third, according to new research.
Experts say January is an excellent time to choose a healthier lifestyle but by the end of the first week of the month even the best intentions may start to wane.
But new research may provide the perfect motivation needed to stick with it, say scientists.
Professor Peter Elwood and colleagues examined data from the UK Biobank — a study of half a million Britons — to identify five healthy behaviours and compare them to the risk of cancer over several years.
These include not smoking, maintaining a low BMI (body mass index), participating in regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet and limiting alcohol intake.
Each individual behaviour was associated with a reduction in cancer risk of about eight per cent.
But taken together the overall collection contributed to a total reduction of about a third and possibly a greater cut in deaths from the disease.
This included a 25 per cent and 35 per cent reduction in bowel and breast cancer respectively, two of the most common forms of the disease.
Prof Elwood, of Cardiff University, said the results may not sound surprising.
Most people are aware some behaviours have some benefit, otherwise they wouldn’t be ‘healthy’.
But the real problem is translating the vague idea of lifestyle choices being ‘good’ into useful evidence, which is what this study provides.
Next comes the challenge of translating this evidence to useful — and realistic — recommendations.
Prof Elwood said: ‘Perhaps the advice to take up one additional healthy behaviour is the most acceptable message for most subjects.’
‘In our study each additional healthy behaviour was associated with a reduction of about eight per cent in cancer, independent of the effects of the other behaviours.
‘The take-home message is healthy behaviours can have a truly tangible benefit.’
Professor Elwood added: ‘A healthy lifestyle has may benefits additional to cancer reduction: it costs nothing, has no undesirable side effects…. and is better than any pill!’
In the study data on lifestyle behaviours were provided by 343,150 subjects aged 40 to 69, with 14,285 diagnosed with cancer during an average follow up of just over five years.
The findings were published by ecancermedicalscience.