Colon cancer patients who adopt a healthy lifestyle after treatment could potentially reduce their risk of death from a recurrence by more than 40 percent, according to new research.
The findings were released ahead of a conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the world's largest organization of clinical cancer professionals.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco analyzed data gathered in a prospective study of 1,000 advanced, stage III colon cancer patients from across the United States who were enrolled from 1999-2001. The volunteers, from 13 institutions, were evaluated over a period of seven years.
At two points during the trial, participants filled out a questionnaire asking whether their lifestyle following treatment matched prevention guidelines recommended by the American Cancer Society.
The guidelines include maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, limiting consumption of red and processed meats, and engaging in regular physical activity.
Nine percent of patients in the study adhered to the guidelines. Of those, there was a reduction in death by 42 percent and a 31 percent lower risk of cancer recurrence compared to patients who did not follow the guidelines. In the study, colon cancer returned in 355 patients, 256 of whom died.
The federally-funded study was the first to look at colon cancer survivorship. Other studies have focused on cancer prevention through adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
There are a reported one million colon cancer survivors in the United States; the disease is the second-leading cause of cancer death.
UCSF lead author Erin Van Blarigan said treated colon cancer patients are living longer than ever before, but there needs to be more emphasis on survivorship care. She called for an increase in resources to help more people adopt a healthy lifestyle in the aftermath of a diagnosis and treatment.
"There is a pressing need for improved survivorship care and resources to help people adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle after cancer diagnosis," Blarigan said.
Harvard University in Massachusetts administered the lifestyle questionnaire. The results were analyzed by researchers at the University of California.