SAN FRANCISCO— A team led by University of California, San Francisco, researchers have found that colon cancer patients who have a healthy body weight, exercise regularly and eat a diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables have a significantly lower risk of cancer recurrence or death.
Published on May 17, ahead of the 2017 annual gathering of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world’s largest clinical cancer research meeting, the study was based on an analysis of data collected on patients participating in a national study for people in the United States with stage III colon cancer and going through evaluations over about seven years.
“We found that colon cancer patients who reported a healthy body weight, engaged in regular physical activity, and ate a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits that was low in red and processed meats, had a lower risk of cancer recurrence and death compared to patients who did not engage in these behaviors,” said lead author Erin L. Van Blarigan, assistant professor in the UCSF departments of epidemiology and biostatistics, and urology.
This was a prospective study among nearly 1,000 stage III colon cancer patients enrolled in a chemotherapy trial conducted from 1999 to 2001. Clinical researchers from Harvard University administered a validated questionnaire on lifestyle at two points during the trial. The data was made available to a team led by UCSF researchers, who performed the analysis.
The researchers found that over a median follow-up period of seven years, colon cancer survivors who adhered to the American Cancer Society Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors had a 42 percent lower risk of death and 31 percent lower risk of cancer recurrence compared to patients who did not engage in these behaviors. There were 335 people with colon cancer recurrences, 256 of whom died; 43 additional patients died during the study from other causes.
In the study, the patients were given a score from 0 to 6 measuring the degree to which their lifestyle matched the healthy lifestyle guidelines. Only 9 percent of them had a lifestyle that adhered closely to the guidelines, indicated by a score of 5 or 6.
“There are more than one million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States,” Van Blarigan, a member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, was quoted as saying in a news release. “These individuals are living longer than ever before, but the disease remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. There is a pressing need for improved survivorship care, and resources to help people adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle after cancer diagnosis.”