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THURSDAY, May 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Colon cancer patients seem to have a better chance of survival if they have already been practicing healthy lifestyle habits before their diagnosis, a new study suggests.
Survival rates for colon cancer vary widely, even among patients who have similar tumors and receive the same treatment. It has been suggested that lifestyle factors before and after colon cancer diagnosis play a role, according to the study authors.
The new research supports the idea that the healthier a person's lifestyle score prior to diagnosis, the better the odds of survival.
However, it should be noted that the study was only designed to show an association between healthy lifestyle factors and improved survival; it did not prove that these factors directly caused the better survival outcomes.
The study included data from more than 520,000 people in 10 European countries. Their health was followed for an average of six years. During that time, nearly 3,300 of the participants were diagnosed with colon cancer.
The patients were given scores based on how well they followed healthy lifestyle guidelines in areas such as diet, physical activity and weight.
The new study revealed that having a healthy weight and high consumption of plant-based foods were most strongly linked with survival, according to the study published online May 7 in the journal BMC Medicine.
The investigators also found that women who breast-fed had a better chance of survival than those who did not breast-feed. This link has been found in breast cancer, but this is the first time it has been seen in colon cancer, the study authors said.
"The results of this study demonstrate that a healthy lifestyle in your adult life, in line with recommendations on diet, physical activity and body weight for cancer prevention, do not only prevent developing bowel [colon] cancer but, in those who eventually developed it, it improves survival," lead author Dora Romaguera, from Imperial College London, said in a journal news release.
However, it's not known if adopting healthy lifestyle habits after colon cancer diagnosis can improve patients' chances of survival. Further research is needed to find out if that's the case, the study authors said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: BMC Medicine, news release, May 6, 2015