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Jun 04, 2014 12:25 PM EDT

Exercise and Fish May Help Reduce Risk Of Colon Cancer Recurrence

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Patients recovering from colon cancer can reduce their chances of a relapse by maintaining an active lifestyle and eating a diet that includes fish, according to a recent study Counsel and Heal reported.

Researchers found that the likelihood that patients will suffer a relapse of colon cancer doubles if they eat fish less than twice a week, or if they get less than 60 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

"Once somebody is diagnosed with colon cancer, they may think there is nothing they can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle," Dr. Mohammed Shaik, lead author of the study and a fellow at Michigan State University's Breslin Cancer Center, said in a statement. "We show they can help prevent a recurrence."

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from more than 1,500 colon cancer patients from the United States, Poland, Vietnam and Western Europe, including 188 people who suffered a recurrence of their cancer following treatment.

Researchers administered a survey to the study participants, asking about their diet, exercise habits, and whether they smoked or consumed alcohol, HealthDay reported.

Researchers found that people who ate fish less than twice a week and were active for less than one hour per week had a 2.5 times greater risk of suffering from colon cancer recurrence. Meat, smoking or alcohol consumption did not affect the risk of colon cancer returning.

Shaik said the findings regarding fish and exercise are consistent with earlier studies that investigated what "might increase someone's risk of developing colon cancer in the first place."

The researchers have hypothesized that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish might somehow reduce colon cancer risk. Exercise also reduces inflammation in the body and helps thwart obesity, which are two other risk factors for colon cancer.

The findings were recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.

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