People who eat healthy, exercise, and do not smoke are less likely to report a personal history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps, according to a Cleveland Clinic online survey.
Another key finding was that more people 50 and over need to comply with colorectal cancer screening guidelines.
About 27,000 people worldwide took part in the survey, which indicated which risk factors, including diet and lifestyle behaviors, people could change to reduce their risk of developing colon cancer. The clinic presented the findings at the Digestive Disease Week convention in Chicago on May 7.
“Colon cancer is a preventable disease. These results emphasize the known modifiable factors that can alter the risk,” Dr. Carol A. Burke, a Cleveland Clinic gastroenterologist who is president of the American College of Gastroenterology, said in a press release. “Colon cancer has had significant decline in the U.S. since 1980 when colorectal cancer screening was first introduced, but these results show screening for the disease — and adherence to a healthy lifestyle — appear woefully underutilized.”
Only 36 percent of respondents said their colorectal cancer screening was up to date, in terms of meeting guidelines of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The five-minute online questionnaire asks participants about their age, gender, ethnicity, weight, height; how many pieces of fruit, grains, and vegetables they eat each day; their smoking history; physical activity; and personal and family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps. Participants 50 or older are also asked questions about following screening guidelines.
After completing the survey, respondents received a score of average or above average on their risk of developing colorectal cancer in their lifetime. Participants also received a family tree showing relatives affected with colorectal cancer or polyps.
Burke and another study co-investigator, David Dornblaser, presented the findings in separate analyses. They showed that fewer than 10 percent of respondents ate five or more servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains each day, and only a quarter exercised at least 30 minutes four times a week.
White and female participants were more likely to be up to date on their colorectal cancer screening. Those more likely to adhere to screening also ate more fruits and vegetables, smoked less or not at all, and exercised more than those who did not adhere to screening.
Participants with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps were almost twice as likely to be up to date on their screening, researchers said. The figures were 35.7 percent of those with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, compared with 19.4 percent of patients without a family history.
“Our hope by providing this online assessment is that individuals could take it, print out the results with the call to action and take it to their physicians to start the colorectal cancer screening conversation,” Burke said.
“In turn, physicians get a better understanding of the demographic of individuals who have decreased participation in colorectal cancer screening: male gender, non-white ethnicity, smoking history, higher BMI, lower intake of plant-based diet, and reduced physical activity level,” she added. “These results may help them target those patients and encourage them to get screened. Our next research is to determine if our tool enhanced patients’ adherence to screening.”