colon1Colorectal cancer (CRC) patients seem to have a better chance of survival if they have already been living a healthy lifestyle before their diagnosis, research shows.
The American Cancer Society estimates that, in 2015, over 130,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with CRC, and more than 49,000 of them will die as a result of their disease. This is the 3rd most common type of cancer in this country, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Over the past 20 years, however, the death rate from CRC has been declining, largely due to increasing use of established diagnostic screening techniques, as well as other factors. Treatment for CRC has also improved in recent years, and as a result, there are more than 1 million survivors of this disease in the US.
The recent European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study aimed to determine whether the same healthy lifestyle choices that help prevent CRC could also boost the survival rates of patients diagnosed with the disease (read also about mesothelioma explained). The study evaluated data from over 500,000 men and women from 10 countries. Participants completed questionnaires to provide information about their medical history, diet, and lifestyle at the beginning of the study, and height and weight measurements were also taken. During the 6-year study period, nearly 3,300 of them were diagnosed with CRC. 
The researchers used a scoring system, based on recommendations in the guidelines about body weight, activity level, and intake of: food and drinks that promote weight gain, plant foods, meat-based food, and alcohol. Women were also scored on whether or not they had breastfed. Overall, higher scores correlated with more healthy behaviors. 
According to the results of the study, published in BMC Medicine, the higher the score, the lower the risk of death after a diagnosis of CRC. A healthy weight and high consumption of plant foods had the strongest associations with survival. The study also showed that women who had breast-fed had a better chance of surviving CRC than those who did not breast-feed – a link that has already been found in breast cancer, but never before in CRC. 
The researchers noted that following a healthy lifestyle according to guideline recommendations doesn’t just help prevent CRC, but also improves survival rate in those who do develop it. However, further research is necessary to determine whether adopting healthy lifestyle habits after CRC diagnosis can increase the odds of survival, they concluded.