Are your New Year's resolutions already beginning to slip? New research could provide some much-needed motivation, after discovering that people who stick to lifestyle changes may reduce their risk of cancer by a third.
According to a poll conducted by YouGov last month, eating better and exercising more are the top two New Year's resolutions for Americans in 2018.
Other lifestyle changes, including getting more sleep, quitting smoking, and cutting back on alcohol consumption, also make the top 10.
Unfortunately, more than 40 percent of us fail such resolutions after just 1 month.
But what are the benefits of sticking to them? A new study — recently published in the journal ecancermedicalscience — sheds light.
Study leader Prof. Peter Elwood — of the Division of Population Medicine at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom — and colleagues set out to determine how certain healthy behaviors affect the risk of cancer development.
A healthy lifestyle 'is better than any pill'
Cancer remains one of the world's biggest health burdens. In the United States alone, more than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2016.
Lifestyle factors are major players in cancer development. Smoking, for example, is a leading cause of cancer; it accounts for around 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. and around 80 percent of lung cancer deaths.
In order to see how healthy lifestyle behaviors affect cancer risk, Prof. Elwood and his colleagues conducted an analysis of data from UK Biobank, which is an ongoing health study of 500,000 adults in the U.K.
The analysis included lifestyle data of 343,150 individuals. Using this information, the researchers looked at how five healthy behaviors impacted the subjects' risk of cancer over an average of 5.1 years of follow-up.
These behaviors included low alcohol consumption, not smoking, regular physical activity, a healthy body mass index (BMI), and a healthful diet.
During follow-up, a total of 14,285 subjects received a cancer diagnosis.
The researchers found that people who adhered to all five healthy behaviors were a third less likely to develop cancer during follow-up, compared with individuals who followed just one or none of the healthy behaviors.
On looking at the effects of the five healthy behaviors individually, the analysis revealed that each one was associated with an 8 percent reduction in the risk of cancer.
So, if you're tempted to quit the gym or succumb to that takeout already, you might want to refer to the results of this study.
"The take-home message is that healthy behaviors can have a truly tangible benefit," says Prof. Elwood.
"A healthy lifestyle has many benefits additional to cancer reduction — it costs nothing, has no undesirable side effects...and is better than any pill."
Prof. Peter Elwood