A healthy diet and regular exercise are crucial for the long-term health of cancer survivors, a new American Cancer Society (ACS) guideline emphasizes.
“The link to a healthy diet and regular exercise in long-term cancer survival has become even more clear during the last several years,” said Dr. Arif Kamal, chief patient officer at the cancer society. “We encourage all survivors to work with their care team to develop a program tailored to their individual needs, especially if they are experiencing symptoms or side effects that interfere with their ability to eat well or be active.”
The cancer survival rate in the United States is 68%, and there are 16.9 million cancer survivors nationwide.
The 2022 Nutrition and Physical Activity Guideline for Cancer Survivors was developed by a committee of experts who reviewed research findings since the last guideline was issued in 2012. The committee came up with the following advice:
- Avoid obesity and maintain or increase muscle mass through diet and exercise.
- Get regular physical activity, taking into consideration the type of cancer, patient health, types of treatments and symptoms, and side effects.
- Follow a healthy diet that meets nutrient needs and is consistent with recommendations to prevent chronic disease.
- Follow the general diet and exercise advice of the ACS guideline for cancer prevention to reduce the risk of a new cancer.
The guideline was published online March 16 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
According to the ACS, physical activity improves the likelihood of survival among patients with several common cancers, including breast, colon and prostate. Obesity is associated with worse outcomes for patients with breast, endometrial and bladder cancer, the ACS noted.
A “Western-style” diet that’s high in meat, high-fat dairy, refined grains, French fries, sweets and desserts is associated with worse outcomes in colon, breast and prostate cancer survivors, the society said.
The new guideline recommends a diet high in vegetables, legumes, fruit and whole grains, and low in red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods and refined grain products.
The Mediterranean diet is an example of a healthy diet associated with improved outcomes in prostate cancer patients, according to the ACS.
It’s unclear how alcohol affects prognosis after a diagnosis for most cancers, but higher alcohol consumption after liver, laryngeal, pharyngeal or head and neck cancer is associated with a higher risk of death from all causes, ACS noted.
The guideline says nutrition and physical activity assessment and counseling should begin as soon as possible after cancer diagnosis and continue throughout treatment and recovery, as needed.
“The good news from this report is that diet and exercise can improve outcomes for survivors of some cancers,” Kamal said. “However, there is still a lot we don’t know, especially for cancer types that are less common or have lower survival rates, which is why ACS is committed to continuing to conduct and support research on this important topic.”
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about life after cancer treatment.
SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, March 16, 2022
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