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Douglas L. Bechard, MD
Adventist Health System

New Guidelines from the American Cancer Society Recommend Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Friday, April 27th, 2012

New guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend that people living with cancer maintain a healthy weight, get enough exercise, and eat a healthy diet. Increasingly, scientific evidence shows that healthy nutrition and physical activity behavior after a diagnosis can lower the chances of the cancer coming back, and can improve the chances of disease-free survival.

Among the recommendations:

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Avoid weight gain during cancer treatment, whether you are at a healthy weight or overweight.
  • Weight loss after recovery from treatment may benefit survivors who are overweight or obese.

Be physically active.

  • Studies show that exercise is safe during cancer treatment, and can improve many aspects of health, including muscle strength, balance, fatigue, and depression.
  • Physical activity after diagnosis is linked to living longer and a reduced risk of the cancer returning among people living with cancer, including breast, colorectal, prostate, and ovarian cancer.

Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • The most health benefits are associated with a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish, and low in refined grains, red meat and processed meat (such as hot dogs), desserts, high-fat dairy, and French fries. Most of the studies about cancer and diet have focused on breast cancer.
  • Studies show that taking vitamins, herbs, and other nutritional supplements often does not help cancer patients live longer, and may even shorten life. Before taking any supplement, discuss it with a healthcare provider.
  • The recommendations also include specific guidance for people diagnosed with breast, colon, endometrial, ovarian, lung, prostate, head and neck, and blood cancers. It includes a section with answers to common questions about alcohol, organic foods, sugar, supplements, and several other areas of interest.
  1. Rock CL, Doyle C, Demark-Wahnefried W, et al. Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. 2012. CA Cancer J Clin. April 26, 2012. Abstract available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/caac.21142/abstract. Accessed April 27, 2012.

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