Many Cancer Survivors Make Healthy Changes
Male, Older, and Less-Educated Patients Less Likely to Change Lifestyle After Cancer
July 25, 2005 -- Cancer survivors often make healthy lifestyle changes after
their cancer treatment, but a new study suggests many may not go far enough in
adopting healthy habits.
Researchers found up to 60% of cancer survivors follow a healthier diet
after diagnosis and treatment, yet less than half are eating the recommended
five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
The study also showed that about 70% of breast and prostate cancer survivors
remain overweight or obese.There are almost 10 million cancer survivors in the
U.S., and that number is expected to grow thanks to improvements in cancer
diagnosis and treatment. For example, only about 50% of people diagnosed with
cancer in 1971 were expected to be alive after five years, compared with 64% of
those diagnosed with cancer today.
Researchers say adopting healthy lifestyle changes is especially important
for cancer survivors because they are at increased risk for second cancers as
well as other diseases, such as osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease, and
A Healthier Life After Cancer?
In their study, researchers reviewed 100 studies on cancer survivors to
examine the impact of cancer diagnosis and treatment on lifestyle and behavior
changes. The results appear in the Aug. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical
Overall, they found that many cancer survivors adopt healthier behaviors,
- 30%-60% eat a healthier diet.
- 46%-96% of smokers with tobacco-related cancers (lung, head, or neck) quit
- 47%-59% of those with head and neck cancers linked to alcohol use abstain
- 70% engage in regular physical activity of 30 minutes of exercise a day at
least five days a week.
However, the study showed that cancer survivors who were male, less
educated, over age 65, or who live in urban areas were less likely to start or
maintain healthy lifestyle changes.
The study also showed that only 25%-42% of cancer survivors eat adequate
amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Researchers also found that only 20% of oncologists (cancer doctors)
provided guidance to their patients on adopting a healthier lifestyle due to
time constraints, treatment or health concerns, and uncertainty about how the
message would be received or affect their patient's health.
'Teachable Moment' for Patient and Doctor
In an editorial that accompanies the study, Patricia A. Ganz, MD, of the
Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los
Angeles, says the diagnosis of cancer and transition to cancer survivor are
"teachable moments" for oncologists to encourage their patients to
adopt a healthier lifestyle.
"Cancer survivors are looking for important ways to prevent a recurrence
of their cancer, and to enhance the quality and length of their lives,"
But Ganz says it's also a teachable moment for oncologists to focus more
attention on this new posttreatment phase of cancer care.