The proportion of colorectal cancer compared to other cancers is increasing markedly in the population and is affecting younger and younger people, those under 50 years old. Encouraging results indicate that good lifestyle habits significantly increase the probability of surviving this type of cancer. On the menu: healthy eating, body weight control, physical activity and… a little coffee!
It is estimated that approximately 70% of colorectal cancers that affect the population of industrialized countries each year are a consequence of the Western way of life, characterized by poor diet, excess body weight and physical inactivity. For example, studies show that people who eat a lot of red meats and deli meats see their risk of developing this cancer increase by about 30% compared to those who eat very little. Combined with overweight and a sedentary lifestyle, all of these lifestyle habits create pro-inflammatory conditions that greatly favor the development of colorectal cancer.
Avoid recidivism, focus on prevention
This impact of lifestyle is not limited to the development of colorectal cancer, but it could also influence the risk of recurrence in people who have had the disease. This is a very important point, because the early detection of tumours, combined with medical advances in the treatment of these cancers, means that more and more people are surviving colorectal cancer and are therefore necessarily more at risk of developing this cancer again.
Red meat triples the risk of death
In addition to increasing the risk of colorectal cancer, the consumption of red meats and processed meats is also associated with a significant reduction in survival in patients affected by this disease. People who regularly eat these foods after diagnosis are almost twice as likely to die from cancer. These effects are all the more harmful if the consumption of red meats and cold cuts is part of a “Western” type diet, that is to say one rich in added sugars and refined flours: studies indicate that this type of eating habits triples the risk of death in people with colorectal cancer, compared to people who adopt a healthier diet, low in red meats, but rich in plants.
Mortality halved with physical activity
Many studies show that cancer survivors who are the most physically active also live the longest. This is especially true for colorectal cancer, with a halving of mortality for the most active people after diagnosis. Whatever the nature of the exercise (walking, running, cycling, yoga, swimming), the important thing is to move: regular physical activity should be considered an essential component of cancer treatment.
Normal body weight: priority objective
Not only are overweight and obesity risk factors for colorectal cancer, but being overweight significantly increases the risk of disease recurrence. Maintaining a normal body weight should be a priority objective for all people who wish to reduce the risk of recurrence and improve their life expectancy.
4 cups of coffee a day: a 42% drop in recurrence
Recent findings suggest that regular coffee consumption may also improve the odds of surviving colorectal cancer. By examining the eating habits of patients who had been treated with surgery and chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer, scientists noticed that those who consumed four or more cups of coffee a day had 42% fewer cancer recurrences and overall mortality reduced by 33%.
Chan DS et al. Red and processed meat and colorectal cancer incidence: meta-analysis of prospective studies. PLoS One 6:e20456.
McCullough ML et al. Association between red and processed meat intake and mortality among colorectal cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol, 31:2773-82.
Guercio BJ et al. Coffee intake, recurrence, and mortality in stage III colon cancer: results from CALGB 89803. J Clin Oncol