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Diet, Exercise Advice for Cancer Survivors


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Diet, Exercise Advice for Cancer Survivors

Wed October 1, 2003 04:01 PM ET

By Karla Gale

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The American Cancer Society has issued a "Guide for Informed Choices," designed to advise cancer survivors, their families, and their physicians about appropriate nutrition and physical activity during and after treatment.

Dr. Jean K. Brown, of The State University of New York in Buffalo, and colleagues point out in the Guide that nearly two-thirds of Americans with cancer survive for more than five years after diagnosis. Appropriate weight, a healthful diet, and a physically active lifestyle are particularly important because survivors' risk for new cancers or other chronic illnesses are higher than normal.

Published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, the recommendations are based on new research findings since recommendations were first published in 2001.

One of the main differences in these new recommendations is that "there is more evidence about overweight/obesity and its potential to affect the recurrence of cancer and death from cancer," co-author Colleen Doyle told Reuters Health. Doyle, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is the Cancer Society's director of nutrition and physical activity.

There has also been more research examining physical activity during treatment, after recovery, and in patients with advanced cancer, she added.

Included with the recommendations are "Patient Pages," which answer many of the questions cancer survivors commonly have. For example, strategies for dealing with loss of appetite and fatigue are discussed. The authors also address measures for dealing with lymphedema, the swelling in the arm or leg that sometimes occurs after cancer surgery or radiation.

Physical activity is now recommended for most cancer patients. However, ability to exercise can be compromised by severe anemia or other problems, and specific precautions are advised when these factors are involved.

The recommendations also include data regarding special dietary regimens and supplements. Balanced multivitamin-mineral supplements with up to 100% of "Daily Value" may be helpful. However, high doses should be avoided because of their potential to interfere with chemotherapy and radiation or to increase the risk of new cancer.

"If patients are considering some type of alternative or complementary therapy, they absolutely should talk to their healthcare provider first," Doyle advises. Some can be outright harmful. And even when risk seems to be minimal, there is little or no evidence yet that such therapies are of any benefit to cancer survivors, she said.

SOURCE: CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, October 2003.

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