Can living well save my life? Cancer-protective lifestyle prevalence–and its association with mortality–across Swiss language regions

Switzerland is a small country by size, but offers much diversity with respect to nature and culture. Four languages and many more dialects are spoken in Switzerland. These language differences correspond to differences in culture, dietary habits, and lifestyle habits. Our diet and our lifestyle are clearly linked to the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and most cancers. In a previous Swiss study, lifestyles adhering to recommendations of the World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute of Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) were associated with decreased cancer mortality, particularly among men. However, that study was not able to examine differences in following a cancer-protective lifestyle across the Swiss language regions, due to the lack of data providing uniform information for Swiss language regions.

The first Swiss National Nutrition Survey, menuCH, conducted in 2014 - 2015, closed this gap. menuCH is a national survey with an in-depth assessment of the participants’ diet covering all Swiss language regions. Not only does it assess participants’ diets, but it also measures lifestyle and sociodemographic characteristics. The project proposed here aims in the first step to examine the prevalence of a cancer-protective lifestyle in Switzerland, to determine differences between language regions and to assess determinants of following a cancer-protective lifestyle. In a second step, we will link the distribution of a cancer-protective lifestyle with mortality distribution in Switzerland using geospatial techniques. Third, we will examine changes in the behavior of the Swiss population with respect to a cancer-protective lifestyle over the last 25 years. To accomplish this goal, we will use data from the Swiss Health Surveys, which have a less detailed assessment of diet than menuCH, but are conducted every five years since 1992.

The Swiss Health Surveys will allow us for evaluating lifestyle changes over time. This project will therefore provide much-needed information for public health authorities to tailor their education campaigns to specific population groups and to develop targeted, evidence-based interventions with respect to diet and physical activity where they are most needed.