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Cancer survivors are no more likely to give up smoking, reduce alcohol consumption or become more active

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The post-treatment behaviour of cancer survivors is not necessarily going to see them give up smoking, cut down on alcohol or exercise more often, according to new research published in the British Journal of Cancer on Wednesday.

In the first large-scale study in the UK to look at smoking, alcohol and physical activity - all factors that have been shown to increase chances of survival - the Cancer Research UK-funded analysis compared people who had received a cancer diagnosis with those who were cancer-free over a four-year period. The researchers discovered that cancer survivors were less active overall and led a more relaxed and sedentary lifestyle.

Although it appeared that alcohol and smoking consumption decreased in both groups over time, a cancer diagnosis did not appear to give any extra motivation for this.

There are now more than two million people in the UK who are living with or have successfully fought off cancer. This figure has doubled in the last 40 years and the survival rate is only likely to increase in the future. The researchers are now calling for more to be done to help cancer survivors make healthier lifestyle choices, given that tobacco use is linked to 19.4% of cancer in the UK, alcohol is linked to 4% and obesity 5.5%.

Lead author of the study and director of Cancer Research UK’s Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London, Professor Jane Wardle, said that we often hear stories of a cancer diagnosis being a “wake-up call”. However, the research figures do not suggest this is a general rule. She concluded that the people who received a cancer diagnosis during the study were no more likely to give up smoking, reduce their alcohol consumption or become more active, than those who remained cancer-free.


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