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Stay Upbeat, Exercise to Help Prevent Cancer in Old Age

Risk factors study found little link between drinking and malignancies

MONDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- How you live affects your chances of developing cancer after age 65, new research finds.

Not surprising, tobacco use and lack of physical activity were among the usual suspects in promoting cancer, but alcohol consumption was not, according to the Duke University study.

The findings are scheduled to be presented Monday at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual conference on cancer prevention research, in Washington D.C.

Unhappiness also appears to boost your risk for cancer in old age, the study found.

"About 80 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in the elderly, and more than 80 percent of known risk factors are potentially preventable," senior research scientist Igor Akushevich, of the Duke Center for Population Health and Aging, said in a news release issued by the conference organizers.

Understanding the risk factors of cancer may allow clinicians to make recommendations to their older patients on how to reduce their chances of developing future cancers. However, more analysis is needed before the findings can be of any use, experts said.

Using information from a broad sample of the entire U.S. elderly population, the Duke group found notable contributions from many lifestyle, behavioral and demographic variables that influence the risk of breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers among seniors.

"As expected, we see associations of cigarette smoking with lung cancer. Moderate physical activities are capable of decreasing cancer risk, as well as careful health care insurance strategy and, hypothetically, general optimism in life," Akushevich said.

Contrary to past studies, alcohol use was not linked to cancer risk. This may because alcohol was used only moderately by the elderly.

"Other interesting associations are increased risk of breast cancer for those women afraid to go to the doctor to investigate health problems, and a decreased risk of breast and lung cancers for those who never lose their temper," Akushevich said.

"A general view of the results leads to a hypothesis that cancer risk increases for individuals who are not completely happy in different aspects of their life," he added.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Nov. 17, 2008

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