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New Year’s resolutions cuts cancer risk by a third

New Year’s resolutions often fail – but now a new study may just provide the motivation for you to stick to them.

Scientists found that meeting goals – such as giving up drinking or smoking – can slash your risk of cancer by a third.  

The-large scale study – of half a million Britons – looked at the effects of quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol intake, maintaining a low body mass index (BMI), exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

Each individual behaviour was found to bring a decrease in the chance of getting cancer of about eight per cent.

But carried out all together the overall risk reduction was about a third – and likely a greater cut in deaths from the disease.

Experts found that quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol intake, maintaining a low body mass index (BMI), exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet brought a combined lower cancer risk of around a third (stock image)


According to a recent poll, the most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2018 are as follows:

1. Eat better

2. Exercise more  

3. Spend less money

4. Self care (i.e. get more sleep)

5. Read more books

6. Learn a new skill

7. Get a new job

8. Make new friends

9. Get a new hobby

10. Focus more on appearance

The findings were found by YouGov who surveyed 1,170 UK adults.

However, another recent poll by Bupa asked 2,000 people whether they were confident they would stick to their goals – only half thought they would.

Key findings 

The researchers from Cardiff University examined data from 343,150 people from the UK Biobank to identify the five healthy behaviours and compare them to the risk of cancer. 

The subjects were aged 40 to 69 and 14,285 were diagnosed with the disease during an average follow up of just over five years.

The team found that adopting all the studied healthy behaviours brought a 25 and 35 percent reduction in bowel and breast cancer respectively – two of the most common forms of the disease.  

The risk of cancer in the UK population has increased from about 37 per cent for people born in 1930 to around 50 per cent for those born in 1960.

The increase is largely due to the increasing age of the population but even after taking this into account cancer rates have risen over the past ten years by 3 per cent in men and 8 per cent in women.

In the UK male population, prostate cancer accounted for 26 per cent and colorectal cancer 13 per cent of all cancers

In the UK female population, breast cancer accounted for 31 per cent and colorectal cancer 10 per cent.

Together, these cancers accounted for over half the malignancies in the total population.

Researcher Professor Elwood said: ‘The number of healthy lifestyles followed by participants was inversely associated with the risk of cancer. 

‘This study adds powerful evidence to the literature showing large health benefits from healthy behaviours – non-smoking, a low BMI, regular physical activity, a healthy diet and a low alcohol intake.’ 

The take-home message 

The team said the findings may not sound surprising – but they serve as a reminder of the importance behind turning resolutions into permanent lifestyle choices.  

Professor Elwood said the real problem for people adopting resolutions is translating the vague idea of lifestyle choices being ‘good’ into useful evidence – which is what this study provides. 

He said: ‘Perhaps the advice to take up one additional healthy behaviour is the most acceptable message for most subjects.

‘In our study each additional healthy behaviour was associated with a reduction of about eight per cent in cancer – independent of the effects of the other behaviours.

‘The take-home message is healthy behaviours can have a truly tangible benefit.

‘A healthy lifestyle has may benefits additional to cancer reduction – it costs nothing, has no undesirable side effects… and is better than any pill.’    

The findings were published in the journal ecancermedicalscience.