Cancer breakthrough – study points to three risk-cutting factors

A new study published by a global consortium of researchers has found that taking three simple steps could reduce the risk of cancer by as much as 61 per cent.

The study, led by Professor Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, research specialist in geriatric health at the University Hospital Zurich Clinic, found that increasing the intake of two specific vitamins plus a simple home exercise program provided significant benefits.

Prof. Bischoff-Ferrari and her colleagues ran a randomised trial study in 2020. The results showed that omega-3s and high-dose vitamin D, taken in conjunction with the exercise program, produced cumulative reduction in the cancer risk in generally healthy, active and largely vitamin D-replete adults aged 70 or older.

As well as observing the effects of the combination of all three factors on cancer risk, the study also looked at other combinations of two of the three. It found that combining all three rather than any combination of the two conferred the greatest reduction in cancer risk.

Read: How cancer patients can beat the threat of lymphoedema

Individually, high dose vitamin D, specifically vitamin D3, indicated a 24 per cent risk reduction, omega-3s a 30 per cent reduction and the exercise program a 26 per cent drop.

In combination, omega-3s and vitamin D3 suggested a 47 per cent reduction in the risk of cancer, a 44 per cent reduction for vitamin D3 and exercise, and a 48 per cent reduction for omega-3s and exercise.

But it was the triumvirate of vitamin D3, omega-3s and the exercise program that demonstrated the greatest impact, the three combined delivering a 61 per cent reduction in cancer risk.

Prof. Bischoff-Ferrari said that combining agents had been a tactic previously used in attempting to prevent the spread of cancer, and this study aimed to tackle the issue at the preventative stage.

Read: What the science says about multivitamins

“Novel cancer treatments aim to block multiple pathways for cancer development by combining several agents. We translated this concept into cancer prevention,” she said.

That concept translation was achieved through what was known as a ‘DO-HEALTH’ trial. The DO-HEALTH Research Group, coordinated by Prof. Bischoff-Ferrari, is a consortium of collaborators from universities in Switzerland, the UK, the US and other countries.

The study split participants into various groups, one receiving high doses of vitamin D, a daily dose of omega-3, and performing the exercise program three times a week. Other groups combined two of the three factors, and a control (placebo) group took on none of the three.

Read: How to start safely exercising for heart health

Participants received check-up phone calls on a three-monthly basis and had standardised examinations of health and function at the start of the trial, and annually for three years.

So, should you look at turning over a new leaf by taking on regular doses of omega-3s and vitamin D3 and beginning your own home exercise problem?

Well, public health policy won’t change until the study’s results can be replicated in other trials, but any strengthening exercises you do will almost certainly have a positive effect on your health. It’s well known that involuntary loss of muscle mass occurs as we grow older, and strength exercise can halt or at least slow this process.

As for increasing your vitamin intake, this is, as always, as subject best discussed with your GP.

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Written by Andrew Gigacz