Healthy lifestyle, endoscopic screening, and colorectal cancer incidence and mortality in the United States: A nationwide cohort study

Kai Wang, Wenjie Ma, Kana Wu, Shuji Ogino, Andrew T. Chan, Edward L. Giovannucci, Mingyang Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background Healthy lifestyle and screening represent 2 major approaches to colorectal cancer (CRC) prevention. It remains unknown whether the CRC-preventive benefit of healthy lifestyle differs by endoscopic screening status, and how the combination of healthy lifestyle with endoscopic screening can improve CRC prevention. Methods and findings We assessed lifestyle and endoscopic screening biennially among 75,873 women (Nurses' Health Study, 1988 to 2014) and 42,875 men (Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 1988 to 2014). We defined a healthy lifestyle score based on body mass index, smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and diet. We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) and population-attributable risks (PARs) for CRC incidence and mortality in relation to healthy lifestyle score according to endoscopic screening. Participants' mean age (standard deviation) at baseline was 54 (8) years. During a median of 26 years (2,827,088 person-years) follow-up, we documented 2,836 incident CRC cases and 1,013 CRC deaths. We found a similar association between healthy lifestyle score and lower CRC incidence among individuals with and without endoscopic screening, with the multivariable HR per one-unit increment of 0.85 (95% CI, 0.80 to 0.90) and 0.85 (95% CI, 0.81 to 0.88), respectively (P-interaction = 0.99). The fraction of CRC cases that might be prevented (PAR) by endoscopic screening alone was 32% (95% CI, 31% to 33%) and increased to 61% (95% CI, 42% to 75%) when combined with healthy lifestyle (score = 5). The corresponding PAR (95% CI) increased from 15% (13% to 16%) to 51% (17% to 74%) for proximal colon cancer and from 47% (45% to 50%) to 75% (61% to 84%) for distal CRC. Results were similar for CRC mortality. A limitation of our study is that our study participants are all health professionals and predominantly whites, which may not be representative of the general population. Conclusions Our study suggests that healthy lifestyle is associated with lower CRC incidence and mortality independent of endoscopic screening. An integration of healthy lifestyle with endoscopic screening may substantially enhance prevention for CRC, particularly for proximal colon cancer, compared to endoscopic screening alone.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1003522
JournalPLoS Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


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