June 6th is National Cancer Survivors' Day

American Institute for Cancer Research
Thursday, 20 May 2004

AICR Issues Urgent Call for More Survivor Research, Offers Interim Dietary Advice for Survivors

To mark National Cancer Survivors' Day on June 6th, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is calling on the nations' scientific community to take action. The cancer experts said that in this country alone, over 9.6 million cancer survivors need answers that research still can't provide, because the study of diet's role in survivorship has been overlooked and underfunded for decades.

"Research has shown conclusively that diet, exercise and weight management exert powerful effects on cancer development," said Melanie Polk, RD, Director of Nutrition Education at AICR. "One of AICR's missions is to translate that research into practical advice for the public. But just about everything we know about the diet-cancer link deals with the prevention of first cancers, because that's where research has been focused."

Research on diet's role in cancer survivorship is long overdue, Polk said, and what research has been done is still in its earliest stages. "Survivors are looking for the kind of simple, everyday advice they can use," she continued. "What they eat and how they live may have an enormous potential to help make cancer treatments more effective, reduce side effects, and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence."

In the absence of clear research results -- and the solid dietary advice that grows from them -- today's cancer survivor is inundated with untested and perhaps even unsafe products and regimens that make bold claims.

Dietary Options for Cancer Survivors, a book published by AICR, examines these claims by simply compiling the published, peer-reviewed literature. Four chapters – Foods and Food Derived Supplements, Vitamins and Minerals, Herbals, and Diet-Related Therapies and Regimens – lay out the available evidence, but do not draw conclusions about any substance or regimen. The book empowers survivors by helping them place scientific studies in a meaningful context and make personal choices. Survivors are urged to discuss the book's contents with their health professional.

Another chapter of the book adapts advice for the prevention of first cancers into recommendations for cancer survivors, and explains why:

One might assume that substances that affect the first occurrences [of cancer] will also affect secondary tumors and recurrences, but that has not yet been demonstrated. AICR is actively promoting more research involving people who have been diagnosed with cancer. In the interim, most experts seem to agree that cancer survivors should consider research results regarding risk reduction for primary cancers as being relevant to their situation. Furthermore, most experts would agree that, except during treatment when intake of calories may be a more important consideration than source of calories, cancer survivors would profit from following [these] recommendations:

  • Choose predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and beans.
  • If eaten at all, limit intake of red meat to less than three ounces daily.
  • Limit consumption of fatty foods, particularly those of animal origin. Choose modest amounts of appropriate vegetable oils.
  • Limit consumption of salted foods and use of cooking and table salt. Use herbs and spices to season foods.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks to less than two drinks a day for men and one for women.
  • Do not eat charred food … consume the following only occasionally: meat and fish grilled in direct flame, cured and smoked meats.
  • Avoid being …overweight and limit weight gain during adulthood… Take and hours' brisk walk or similar exercise daily...

AICR offers several publications for survivors. Visit www.aicr.org/survivor to order a free brochure, or read one online. Dietary Options for Cancer Survivors, along with other AICR books for survivors, Nutrition After Cancer and A Dietitian's Cancer Story: Information and Inspiration for Recovery and Healing from a 3-Time Cancer Survivor, are also available.

For more information, or to contact American Institute for Cancer Research, see their website at: www.aicr.org

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