American Cancer Society Releases Nutrition and Physical Activity Recommendations for Cancer Survivors

American Cancer Society
Tuesday, 30 September 2003

Report Targeted to the 9.5 Million Americans Who Have Had Cancer

The American Cancer Society today released revised nutrition and physical activity recommendations for the large and growing population of cancer survivors, who now number some 9.5 million Americans. The report, created by an expert panel convened by the Society, is being published in the September/October 2003 issue of the Society's peer-reviewed medical journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Today, nearly two out of three American cancer patients live more than five years after their diagnosis. Still, many find there are no clear answers to simple questions, such as: What should I eat? How much should I exercise? Should I take vitamins or supplements? While the nutrition and physical activity guidelines established by the Society for the prevention of cancer are likely to be beneficial to survivors, the new report has recommendations specifically for cancer survivors. They include:

  • Physical activity may help even people with advanced cancer by increasing appetite and reducing constipation and fatigue

  • Being overweight can increase the risk of cancer recurrence and may even affect overall survival

  • A standard multivitamin and mineral supplement in amounts equivalent to 100% of the Daily Value can help survivors meet nutrient needs when it is difficult to eat a healthy diet. Some supplements, like those containing high levels of folic acid or antioxidants, may be harmful during cancer treatment

  • A vegetarian diet has many health-promoting features, but there's no direct evidence it can prevent cancer recurrence, and survivors who eat a vegetarian diet should take particular care to ensure adequate nutrient intake

  • Alcohol can have positive and negative effects, increasing the risk of new cancers in survivors while reducing the risk of heart disease, so health care providers need to individually tailor advice to cancer survivors

The report also has detailed information for the most common cancers to provide survivors and caregivers the best, evidence-based guidance in dealing with issues of diet and activity. It also reviews many of the most well known dietary regimens and supplements that are frequently touted as alternatives to standard care and concludes many have little or no evidence to support their use. Also included are answers to commonly asked questions about diet and physical activity.

Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, the Society's director of nutrition and physical activity and co-author of the revised recommendations—first issued in 2001—says they serve a critical need. "As we make gains in treating cancer, more and more Americans will need dependable information in order to make the best choices. With information changing so fast, it's even more important to review the evidence on a regular basis."

In an accompanying editorial, Rowan T. Cheblowski, MD, PhD, of the Harbor-UCLA Research and Education Institute writes that the authors of the report should be congratulated for creating what he calls "a careful, objective analysis."

"These guidelines represent a virtual clearinghouse of information on nutrition and physical activity," says Dr. Cheblowski, saying the recommendations "assemble a powerful and persuasive argument that both increased physical activity and weight loss have sufficient scientific support to justify full-scale randomized clinical trials in specific cancer survivor populations."

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CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians is a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society providing cancer care professionals with up-to-date information on all aspects of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Published six times per year, CA is the most widely circulated oncology journal in the world, mailing to over 100,000 individuals, including primary care physicians; medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists; nurses; other health care and public health professionals; and students in various health care fields. CA is published for the American Cancer Society by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Article: "Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment: An American Cancer Society Guide for Informed Choices", Brown JK, Byers T, Doyle C, et al. CA Can J Clin 2003;53:268-291.

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