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Keeping your New Year’s resolutions could reduce cancer risk, study finds

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*Those hard-won healthy choices may lead to 33% reduction

The New Year is an excellent time to make resolutions for a healthier lifestyle — but by the end of the first week of January, even the best intentions may start to pall.

But research published this week in ecancermedicalscience may provide the motivation needed to stick with it — those hard-won healthy choices may lead to a total reduction of about one-third in cancer risk.Researchers led by Professor Peter Elwood of Cardiff University, United Kingdom (U.K.) examined preliminary data from the UK Biobank, a prospective study of half a million subjects.

They sorted through the data to identify healthy behaviours — which include not smoking, maintaining a low Body Mass Index (BMI), participating in regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet and limiting alcohol intake — and compared them to the risk of cancer over several years.Together, the collection of healthy behaviors contributed to a total reduction of about one-third in cancer risk and possibly a greater reduction in cancer mortality.

These results may not sound surprising. Most people are aware that healthy behaviours have some general benefit — otherwise they wouldn’t be “healthy.” The real problem is translating the vague idea of lifestyle choices being “good” into useful evidence, which is what this study provides.

Next comes the challenge of translating this evidence to useful (and realistic!) recommendations.“Perhaps the advice to take up one additional healthy behaviour is the most acceptable message for most subjects,” says Professor Peter Elwood.

“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 that healthy behaviours can have a truly tangible benefit.”

Professor Elwood adds, “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 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a list of age-specific resolutions, for kids from preschoolers to teenagers, that you can encourage them to try. The group curated its lists after looking over the health surveillance advice that is usually offered to parents during yearly checkups for their children. Because they represent the “greatest hits” of advice and counseling, these resolution suggestions are also good reminders for parents.

For preschoolers, the AAP suggests simple habit-forming resolutions like being nice to other kids who look like they need a friend, cleaning up toys, helping to clear the table and washing their hands after going to the bathroom.For kids between the ages of 5 and 12, the list is a little longer and more specific, from drinking enough water and being active to practicing safe habits online and reporting bullying.

For teens, the resolutions cover everything from eating enough fruit and avoiding drugs and alcohol to managing stress, practicing safe and healthy social habits and even volunteering.

One item on the lists for all age groups is talking to a parent or trusted adult when the child feels scared, lonely or confused or has to make a difficult decision. Some of the other resolutions were slightly tweaked to match the developmental level for each age group.

It’s a great idea to start having these conversations with children, even when they’re very young, said Dr. Gayle Schrier Smith, spokeswoman for the AAP. For example, a preschooler wouldn’t necessarily be expected to come up with his or her own resolutions. Parents can use this as a chance to point out what their child has accomplished over the year and how to build on that in the next year, Smith said.

These conversations also don’t have to be daunting or feel like a chore. Introducing kids to the idea of making their own resolutions also introduces them to the idea that they can create their own wellness, Smith said. Given the rapid pace of their lives, kids and teens aren’t usually slowing down to reflect on forming good habits, being a better person or becoming healthier.

“Life doesn’t slow down for parents or kids unless you make time for it,” Smith said. “Parents can create a moment for reflection and dialogue and kids can choose and take ownership of the resolutions they want to.”

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