Nutrition And Exercise Guidelines For Cancer Survivors

Nutrition and Exercise Guidelines

New research finds many cancer survivors areobese and not physically active, which could make it harder to keep their cancer under control.

Researchers in Canada analyzed data from more than 114,000 adults. They found fewer than 22 percent of Canadian cancer survivors werephysically active — the lowest rates were in men and women who had survived colorectal cancerand women who survived melanoma and breast cancer. Results also show nearly one in five cancer survivors was obese, and one in three wasoverweight.

Fewer than 22% of the cancer survivors were physically active, over 18% were obese (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 30 kg/m2), and another 34% were overweight (BMI 25–30 kg/m2  ).

In the light of the above findings, WF team of health experts bring you information related to help cancer survivors and their families make informed choices related to nutrition and physical activity.

For survivors at risk for unintentional weight loss, including those who are already malnourished or those who receive directed treatment to the gastrointestinal tract, it is crucial to maintain energy balance or prevent weight loss. Most cancer therapies, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, can significantly affect nutritional needs, eating habits, and digestion.

Individualized nutritional therapies may include:

Nutrition and Exercise Guidelines

  • For survivors with decreased appetite, consuming smaller, more frequent meals without liquids can help increase food intake.
  • For survivors who cannot meet nutritional requirements through food alone, fortified and commercially prepared or homemade nutrient-dense beverages or foods may improve the energy and nutrient intake.
  • For survivors who are unable to meet their nutritional needs with these means, other means of short-term nutritional support may include pharmacotherapy, enteral nutrition via tube feeding, or intravenous parenteral nutrition. However, using dietary supplements, such asvitaminsminerals, and herbal preparations, during cancer treatment is still controversial. Folate may interfere with the efficacy of methotrexate, and antioxidants may prevent the cellular oxidative damage to cancer cells that are required for efficacy of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids may have specific benefits for cancer survivors, including reducing cachexia, improving quality of life, and perhaps enhancing the effects of some forms of treatment.

Nutrition and Exercise Guidelines

  • Adequate protein intake is essential during all stages of cancer treatment, recovery, and long-term survival.
  • Whole grains and whole-grain food products are preferred to refined grains.
  • Higher vegetables and fruit intake have been specifically associated with a reduced incidence of cancer at several sites, including the colorectum, stomach, lung, oral cavity, and esophagus. It is reasonable to recommend that cancer survivors adopt the general recommendations issued by the ACS for cancer prevention to eat at least five servings of a variety of vegetables and fruit each day.

Physical Activity

Nutrition and Exercise Guidelines

Persons receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy who are already on an exercise program may need temporarily to exercise at a lowerintensity and progress at a slower pace, but the principal goal should be to maintain activity as much as possible. Resistance exercise may improve bone strength and decrease risk forosteoporosis, and stretching exercise may improve range of motion in cancer survivors with lymph edema. In general, exercise programs may reduce anxiety and depression, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and reduce fatigue.

Physically active” is defined as the equivalent of one hour of walking a day, “moderately active” is equal to 30 minutes a day and “inactive” is less than 30 minutes of walking a day.

“Obese” is defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher. (BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared). “Overweight” is defined as having a BMI of 25 or higher.


The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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