If everyone simply added 30 minutes of physical activity daily, the U.S. colon cancer rates would drop by 15 percent, say Harvard health researchers in a report detailing how lifestyle changes could cut the nation’s burden of cancer risk by half.
“Our recommendations on diet and exercise are perhaps the easiest way for individuals to prevent cancer,” said Dr. Graham Colditz, education director for the Center for Cancer Prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Last year, the center issued a report summarizing a host of epidemiologic studies on what does and does not cause cancer and concluded that cancer is a preventable illness.
The researchers estimated that two-thirds of all cancer deaths can be linked to tobacco, diet, obesity and lack of exercise - all things that people can change.
Rather than focusing on ways to get individuals moving and eating healthier, the report calls for “broad-scale interventions that will shift the behavior of the whole population.”
For example, the report said 60 percent of adults do not engage in the recommended minimum of exercise and that half of all young people are not active every day. Yet physical education requirements have been lowered in schools nationwide. The report’s authors advocate a return to mandatory physical education classes.
The report suggested that if the entire population increased its activity level by 30 minutes of brisk walking or equivalent exercise per day, colon cancer cases would be reduced by 15 percent, or about 15,000 cases per year. Colon cancer is the nation’s second-highest cancer killer, after lung cancer.