How Lifestyle Factors May Affect Cancer Risk and Outcomes

Of course, everyone is well-aware of the role standard-of-care treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation play in treating cancer, yet some might not be as aware of the role that lifestyle modification may play. Numerous studies have shown that there are many lifestyle modifications that may affect cancer outcomes in a positive way, including: exercise, diet, stress reduction and avoidance of circadian rhythm disruptions.

Lifestyle Factors and Cancer

Many studies suggest that the same lifestyle variables that markedly improve our general health, also extend to cancer outcomes. For example, two prospective observational studies published in 2006 revealed a 50% reduction in recurrence and mortality in early-stage colorectal cancer with increased physical activity1,2. The studies concluded that physical activity had a dramatic therapeutic effect on cancer recurrence. Similarly, a 2011 study that looked at the relationship between brain cancer and physical activity showed a significant survival benefit to physical activity regardless of the functional status at diagnosis3. Other studies have revealed the striking relationship between chronic stress, circadian rhythm patterns and cancer outcomes. For example, one study showed that women with metastatic breast cancer who have a normal diurnal rhythm of cortisol as measured by serial salivary cortisol levels—a possible measure of chronic stress—have significantly improved survival in contrast to women with abnormal diurnal cortisol pattern4.

The Ying and the Yang

While traditional cancer therapies work by directly targeting cancer cells, lifestyle modifications tend to affect the environment surrounding cancer cells, making it less hospitable to cancer cells through reductions in growth promoting factors. Together, they target “the seed and the soil,” as our science advisor Jason Fung likes to put it.

In this episode of Healthy Conversations, Travis Christofferson sits down with our science advisor Dr. Barry Boyd and talks about the role that lifestyle factors play in regard to cancer risk and outcomes. Dr. Boyd has spent his entire career studying these topics and has a wealth of knowledge to share with us.

Watch The Healthy Conversations Podcast Series Today at:Healthy Conversations with Dr. barry Boyc

  1. Meyerhardt JA, Giovannucci, EL, Holmes, MD, et al. Physical activity and survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis. J Clin Oncol. 2006;24:3527-3534.
  2. Meyerhardt, JA, Heseltine D, Niedzwiecki D, et al. Impact of physical activity on cancer recurrence and survival in patients with stage III colon cancer: findings from CALGB 89803. J Cin Oncol. 2006;24(22):3535-3541.
  3. Ruden E, Reardon DA, Coan AD, et al. Exercise behavior, functional capacity, and survival in adults with malignant recurrent glioma. J Clin Oncol. 2011;29(21):2918-2923.
  4. Sephton SE, Sapolsky RM, Kraemer HC, Spiegel D. Diurnal cortisol rhythm as a predictor of breast cancer survival. J Natl Inst. 2000;92(12):994-1000.