First-time post-cancer guidelines unveiled
April 26th, 2012
10:54 AM ET

First-time post-cancer guidelines unveiled

Cancer survivors often talk about first reactions when their doctors first used the word "cancer" during a diagnosis. "It's almost like the word was in another language that I didn't understand," a friend of mine said once. For many of the nation's 12 million cancer survivors, learning the new language of post-cancer health maintenance means translating bad eating habits into a healthy diet and exercise.

For the first time, the American Cancer Society on Thursday published formal guidelines for cancer survivors, focusing on the health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. The guidelines are published online in CA: Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

“These recommendations, while we now have evidence that they work for cancer survivors, they are good guidelines for everybody,” said co-author Colleen Doyle, MS RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society, “If you’re eating right and are being active and maintaining a healthy weight, you just feel better.”

While previous information has been published regarding the benefits of healthy weight, exercise and eating, Doyle explained that her team of experts based their report on the growing body of data developed from studying cancer survivors. The main points of the review include:

  •  Maintaining a healthy weight. This includes avoiding weight gain during treatment, and losing weight if you are obese or overweight. A healthy weight is important for fighting recurrance of cancer, as well as beneficial for fighting other health problems.
  • Exercising regularly – up to 150 minutes per week. This has many health benefits including improved physical function, helping mood and mental clarity, and may even help patients to complete chemotherapy by fighting fatigue and making them feel better.

Various studies have shown that diet and food choices may impact cancer progression and recurrence among cancer survivors. The guidelines suggest eating a healthy diet that's high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry and fish, and avoiding a diet containing refined food products, red and processed meats, high fat dairy products and fried foods.

Evidence suggests that caregivers need to be aware of any supplements, vitamins and products that may impact the health of survivors. according to the new guidelines.

The number of U.S. cancer survivors is growing, thankfully, and the ACS says these guidelines can arm survivors with weapons that will help them fight to keep their health.

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. David

    The China Study details a diet that is good for cancer prevention. Basically same as above, but animal sources should make up no more than 10% of your diet.

    April 26, 2012 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hunter P

      And just like these recommendations, the China Study is based on junk science. Oh hey to prevent and recover from cancer eat the same junk we recommend everyone eats on the "Food Plate". It's unfortunate that so many people have an inherent belief that because a food comes from an animal source then it's going to be bad for you. Or that just "fat" in general is bad for you. Or that being a vegan = healthy, because it does not. Anyone with cancer or who has a friend or family with cancer should research a "ketogenic diet" if you want to find something that may actually be beneficial to their condition. It's been used for the past century to successively treat epilepsy and shows a lot of promise for treating cancer and other diseases as well.

      April 26, 2012 at 12:55 | Report abuse |
    • TV

      Hunter P: Can you give us something to back your claim that all this based on "junk science"? Did you read the book or just assume that nobody but you knows what is going on? And you have done years of research on food and cancer?

      April 26, 2012 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
    • WM

      I would highly consider taking a glance at:

      It goes over how Campbell's analysis of the raw data gathered in the study does not actually match the data itself. It also details many "sins of omission" the book makes. I found it to be quote the interesting read – though it helps to have some time (its long) and a good understanding of statistics.

      April 26, 2012 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      I can't vouch for cancer, but within two weeks of eating The China Study way, I was off 4 blood pressure meds that I had been on for 7 years and finally had a normal blood pressure, and it also cured my glaucoma in two years. That tells me that it also probably works for other illnesses. I won't ever go back to eating meat and dairy again.

      April 26, 2012 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
    • Galina L.

      Looks like Steve Jobs thought the same

      April 27, 2012 at 17:13 | Report abuse |
  2. Nancy Brennan

    As a cancer survivor, I found that exercise helped so much during and after treatment, that I researched and wrote about in a guide to help other CS's exercise: Active Against Cancer. Glad to see ACS putting out guidelines too.

    April 26, 2012 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MS.W

      My mom is a cancer survivor and she exercised even with her take home chemo pump on. She just wore her fanny pack that it came in when she worked out. She said it kept her feeling motivated and gave her more energy.

      April 26, 2012 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    How about reducing sugar since its is the number one source of energy for cancer. Just search the web for the studies, they are starting to come out. That means eliminating sources of carbohydrate like grains and processed foods. And no, the CHINA Study is actually did not prove any causality that meat causes cancer. In the rat study they used, they did not tell you that all of the low protein rats died half way through, while the high protein ones survived the longest, almost to full age. What they proved was that animal protein was protective against cancer. Just look up the counter arguments to the China Study.

    April 26, 2012 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JOhn M.

      Are you Gary Taubes? 🙂

      April 26, 2012 at 19:07 | Report abuse |
    • free advice

      Response to Steve:
      Please read the book. You managed to state the findings backwards. The rats on the low protein diet lived longest.

      May 4, 2012 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
  4. PLZ

    Why is a study and guidelines necessary? Shouldn't this be common sense? It's sad that our culture doesn't embrace these ideas as normal. Need to change our culture and belief system, apply these same guidelines and this can prevent many health problems. We're still operating as reactive instead of proactive. Why wait to do this during recovery, why not do this to prevent?

    April 26, 2012 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. NJMama

    Hunter P, I'm sure this diet is fine for some but for some of us the high fat is a danger. I am unable to break fats down without major problems. Remember we are all different and our bodies have different needs. These guidelines are just that and a good template for better health.

    April 26, 2012 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Steve

    "Up to 150 minutes a week." How about at least?

    April 26, 2012 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sharon B

      I had the same thought. Up to 150 minutes per week means anywhere between 0 and 150. Poor editing!

      April 30, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse |


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    • g.triver

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      April 27, 2012 at 21:00 | Report abuse |
  8. msbono

    I don't think it makes a difference what you eat or don't eat. I am a cancer survivor and I have decided that life is short and I'll eat whatever I darn well please. Screw it. Who wants to eat vegetables all day?

    April 26, 2012 at 22:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • travellingyogini

      Action, msbono, I love to eat raw fresh fruits and veggies and that is what my diet consists of.
      Every single day. In fact, I won't eat anything processed or refined, including wheat, dairy, sugars, etc.
      That non'food is what is causing people to get sick. Life is short, eat well, live well and be cancer free.

      April 27, 2012 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
    • Angie

      I agree with you if someone hasn't walked in your shoes who are they to preach. I'm also a survivor that had the Whipple Procedure and although I always loved veggie salads and fresh fruit since surgery cannot digest them. I hate reading these articles that lump everyone in the same category and than everyone that reads them preaches this jibberish on to me.

      August 6, 2012 at 04:58 | Report abuse |
  9. nhparry2288

    As a cancer patient, I checked with the associate of one of the top nutritionists in this country, Gary Null, for an anti-cancer regimen, when I was diagnosed last month. The diet she gave me was vegan, but more restricted than I was used to (I was about 90% vegan, to begin with). I did have a few things in the kitchen that I had to toss. I'm following the diet without trouble, but I am concerned about the sugar topic. I threw away the white sugar, alcohol, et. al., that I had in, but most things break down to sugar in the system. There'll be very little left for me to eat if I get rid of everything that breaks down to sugar. I know that cancer loves sugar (alcohol, cigarettes, etc.). That's been the hardest for me to manage – staying away from things (like bread, fruit juices, etc.) that break down to sugar. Just like it seems that there's wheat in almost everything (I'm allergic to gluten), almost everything seems to break down to sugar in the system. Alas...

    April 26, 2012 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peridot2

      Relax and breathe. All our cells live on glycogen that our bodies produce from the foods we eat. This is how we live. Don't listen to crazy people who are trying to distress you right now. You have to concentrate on getting through your treatment.
      Do whatever you need to do to get through your life now, one day at a time. Avoid stressful people, places and things. It will get better.

      BTW, there is no sugar in cigarettes, but don't smoke. Take care.

      A 2.5 year ovarian cancer survivor.

      April 27, 2012 at 08:09 | Report abuse |
    • Galina L.

      Google ketogenic diet for cancer treatment. Unlike normal cells, cancer sells can't live on ketones, their source of fuel is glucose. Some cancer patients even use Metformine in order to limit glyconeogenesis by the liver. There are a lot of famous vegeterians prematurely dead from cancer, even one of promoters of the microbiotic diet.

      April 27, 2012 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
    • Angie

      I am a 2 year survivor of PC that never smoked, didn't drink, always preferred veggies and fresh fruit so stop stressing yourself out all that healthy living proved to be false. I still can't stay away from the fresh fruit and veggies but have to limit the intact or else I have to pay the Piper. My advise moderation and take time to smell the roses.

      August 6, 2012 at 05:14 | Report abuse |
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    these arent just good, healthy guidelines for cancer patients to live by. they are good for anybody. i actually came across an article referring to a herb from the rainforest known as graviola http://buygraviolabenefits.com. this herb not only naturally reduces blood pressure, but it helps with depression too. i thought it was a good article and thought i would share.

    April 27, 2012 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Vincent Demonbreun

    "Gerson Therapy", The Beautiful Truth", "Forks Over Knives", Food Matters", & "What on Your Plate". Do I need to say any more?!?!

    April 27, 2012 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Galina L.

      Just Denis Minger and "Forks and knives". She found the science behind it to be very questionable http://rawfoodsos.com/tag/forks-over-knives/

      April 27, 2012 at 17:26 | Report abuse |
  12. Bonita Advocate4Oils

    As a more than two decades breast cancer survivor/thriver, I've been shouting out this and other progressive lifestyle choices to reduce risk factors and to restore and maintain health, if conventional cancer treatments are chosen. Many progressive people have known and applied this and other basic info for centuries! So glad that mainstream is catching up, even though there is a long way to go. There is so much to learn and do...

    April 27, 2012 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. William L. Wilson, M.D.

    Recent research has shown that cancer cells love fructose, the simple sugar found in many vegetables and fruits. The problem is that that’s not where we get most of our fructose. The majority of our fructose comes from sucrose (sugar) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). When you consume processed foods containing these elements you are setting up a breeding ground for cancer cells.

    What even worse is when you throw high glycemic carbohydrates into the mix, you end up frying your brain. When you consume high glycemic carbohydrates, especially from grains, in an environment of insulin resistance, you end up subjecting your brain to toxic magnified glucose spikes. Over time these glucose spikes can trigger a chronic condition called “Sugar-Brain”. The medical term for this condition is Carbohydrate Associated Reversible Brain syndrome or CARB syndrome. Learn more at: http://carbsyndrome.com.

    When you are fighting cancer you want your brain to be in the game. When you have CARB syndrome your brain ends up in the dugout.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Christy

    If you don't think nutrition plays an ENORMOUS role in both contributing to cancer and preventing cancer, look up David Servan-Schreiber on YouTube. He was a physician who was diagnosed with brain cancer early in his career. He gives a fabulius talk that dispels myths and tells you what foods have been proven to destroy cancer cells.

    April 27, 2012 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Richard Hughes

    I think it's true that everyone should try and maintain a healthy lifestyle. You will feel better in and about yourself, and if it helps to reduce your chances of cancer then all the better.

    Those looking to support a really worthwhile cancer chairty should check out http://www.fashionkicks.org.uk.
    It's a cancer charity set up by Shay Given and his wife. They do great work.

    June 1, 2012 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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