More evidence is needed on changes to diet and lifestyle that would benefit cancer survivors, say US experts. They have called for better guidance on nutrition and lifestyle for the increasing number of people who have survived cancer.
In their commentary, in March’s issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, they point out that less than half the $228m burden of cancer in the US is accounted for directly by cancer care costs, with the rest arising from increased morbidity, lost productivity and early death. And they say that more research is needed to develop guidelines on nutrition for cancer survivors, to prevent cancer recurrence and manage chronic conditions that are common in this group – 60% of whom are at least 65 years old.
The authors examine the evidence behind current nutrition recommendations aimed at preventing recurrence in cancer survivors, and managing their chronic conditions, as well as improving quality of life and decreasing health care costs.
They say: “It is time to concentrate on guidelines to help patients avoid the other complications that lead to death. Data support the hypothesis that nutrition interventions are not only likely to help with cancer outcomes, but can also be important in preventing and managing some of the chronic health conditions that can occur after cancer treatment, such as cardiovascular complications, weight gain, diabetes and other endocrine disorders, functional impairment, osteopenia and osteoporosis.”
Current recommendations for cancer survivors emphasise:
- achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- encouraging regular physical activity (for adults at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day)
- eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- limiting red and processed meats and alcohol consumption.
- trying to obtain nutrients from foods, rather than supplements, because several studies have linked supplement intake with higher cancer-specific and all-cause mortality among cancer survivors.
The authors ask for research to be conducted into whether nutritional interventions may improve quality of life for cancer patients with one or more comorbid conditions, and also into whether specific cancers require specific nutritional guidelines.
They acknowledge that although the American Cancer Society and the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research encourage cancer survivors to follow diet and lifestyle recommendations for cancer prevention, evidence suggests that few cancer survivors actually do so. So they say that further research is also needed to determine the optimal method and timing of interventions to promote healthy lifestyle behaviours among cancer survivors.