Kicking off Cancer Research Month
Today marks the start of National Cancer Research Month, a month declared by the US Congress in 2007 to recognize innovative research in cancer. We here at AICR want to thank all the researchers working to better understand the links between diet, physical activity, weight and cancer prevention and survivorship.
Here are six of the many studies published this year alone that are furthering our understanding of how lifestyle may prevent cancer and help survivors.
You can also see the latest batch of scientists AICR is supporting and read about their studies – from fish oil to childhood obesity – in Meet Our New Grantees.
1. AICR Recommendations Save Lives
A study of almost 400,000 people over 13 years found that following at least six of AICR’s recommendations for cancer prevention cut risk of premature death from all diseases by about one-third when compared to those who adhered to the fewest of the recommendations. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and it’s the first time a study has applied AICR’s recommendation for cancer prevention to mortality.
For cancer alone, adhering to the highest numbers of the recommendations linked to a 20 percent reduced risk of a premature death during the study. This study was also the first to quantify how AICR’s recommendations on breastfeeding linked to risk of dying: mothers who breastfed their babies for at least six months had a 17 percent reduced risk for early death compared to women who did not breastfeed at all.
Read about the Study: Cutting Premature Death with AICR Recommendations
2. Sitting too much increases risk of chronic disease
Evidence is strong that physical activity reduces the risk of several cancers; the research on inactivity possibly increasing risk is still emerging. Earlier this year a large Australian study added to that evidence, finding that middle-aged men who sat around more had an increased risk of chronic disease, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Among the 63,000 participants, the men who reported sitting for less than four hours a day were less likely to have a chronic disease, compared to those who sat more than four hours. The link held after accounting for physical activity and other potential risk factors, such as weight and age.
The study was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
3. AICR Recommendations Help Cancer Survivors
A study among female cancer survivors also evaluated how adherence to AICR guidelines for cancer prevention, this time focusing on cancer survivors and mortality risk. This study included approximately 2,000 older women diagnosed with cancer between 1986 and 2002 and they had answered questions on their body weight, physical activity and diet.
After an average follow-up of approximately 5 years, women who followed at least six of AICR’s recommendations had a 33 percent reduced risk of dying during those years compared to the women who followed four or fewer of the recommendations. (The recommendations related to supplements and breastfeeding were not applicable to this population, and data on limited energy- dense food was not available.)
When the study looked at death from cardiovascular disease and cancer specifically, the physical activity recommendation stood out. Being physically active for 30 or more minutes per day was the strongest factor for lower risk of mortality from all-causes, as well as from cancer and cardiovascular disease, independent of body weight and following dietary recommendations.
The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.
4. Mediterranean diet may protect heart health and that may affect cancer risk
In February, a major trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine provided strong evidence that diet can have a major affect on heart health (which then may link to cancer risk). The study found that consuming a plant-based diet, along with plenty of nuts and healthy oils, linked to a reduced risk of stroke, cardiovascular death and heart attacks compared to those following a low-fat diet.
A month later a study found that following steps to reduce risk for heart disease can cut risk of cancer in half. The study, published in the journal Circulation, used the American Heart Association’s seven metrics for ideal cardiovascular health, many similar to AICR’s evidence-based recommendations for cancer prevention.
Read more about it:
Mediterranean Diet, Heart Disease and Cancer Risk
Cutting Cancer Risk with Heart Health
5. Lower Calorie Foods May Help Restaurants (and Obesity)
Some possible good news for chain restaurants who want to provide healthy options: Restaurant-goers appear to be selecting the lower-calorie food and beverage items more frequently in recent years, leading to increased sales and more customers for the chain restaurants that offer lower-calorie choices. The findings were from a report released by the Hudson Institute in February.
Lower-Calorie Foods: It's Just Good Business found that lower-calorie foods and beverages were a growth engine for the large restaurant-chains studied. In 17 of the 21 restaurant chains evaluated, lower-calorie foods and beverages outperformed those that were not lower-calorie. In addition, chains that increased their servings of lower-calorie items generated an increase in same stores sales and customer traffic.
Find the report here.
6. Folic Acid Does Not Increase Cancer Risk, Analysis Finds
In January, an analysis published in The Lancet helped to set minds at ease when it comes to folic acid, the synthetic form of the B vitamin folate. In 1998, United States and Canada made folic acid fortification of grain and cereal products mandatory in order to prevent neural tube defects.
But previous observational studies suggested that the supplement may increase the risk for colon cancer among certain populations. Not so, finds the analysis.
Read about the analysis.