The BeWEL study by the University of Dundee said obesity is a recognized risk factor for colorectal and other cancers. (Agencies)
Colorectal cancer is a cancer caused by uncontrolled cell growth in the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine).
Recent UK estimates on cancer preventability indicate that 47 per cent of colorectal cancer can be prevented through attaining a healthy body weight, appropriate levels of physical activity and dietary fibre intake and reductions in red and processed meat and alcohol.
The study looked at whether interventions to encourage patients at increased risk for colorectal cancer to make a sustained effort to reduce weight and improve physical activity would have an impact on health measures.
The researchers who carried out the new study said it showed that significant and sustained weight loss, improvements in blood pressure and blood glucose as well as changes in diet and physical activity could be achieved over a one-year period through an intervention consisting of regular meetings with lifestyle counsellors and monthly phone calls.
This intervention resulted in an average weight loss of 3.50 kg in the intervention group, 2.7 kg greater than patients who were only given a weight loss booklet only.
The researchers say the findings show the importance of combining evidence-based cancer prevention messages with cancer screening programmes to deliver the strongest benefits to patients.
Results of the study have been published online by the British Medical Journal.
"Weight management programmes in secondary care are common in the context of diabetes but they do not feature in the cancer screening setting, despite the fact that obesity is a risk factor in colorectal and other cancers," said Annie Anderson, Professor of Public Health Nutrition at the University of Dundee and lead author of the research paper.
The BeWEL study had a high response rate indicating that patients are interested in lifestyle change and over 90 per cent of participants kept going in the trial for a one year.
The study is supported by the National Prevention Research Institute, funded through the Medical Research Council.
It involved researchers from the Universities of Dundee (lead), Stirling, Aberdeen, Strathclyde and London and four Scottish Health Boards (Tayside, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran and Greater Glasgow and Clyde).
The BeWEL study by the University of Dundee said obesity is a recognized risk factor for colorectal and other cancers.