Getting a diagnosis of cancer can be an intimidating experience. I’ve been fortunate not to have received this pronouncement, but know too many friends and relatives who have battled cancer. Some have seen their cancer go into remission while others continue to battle this disease. And some unfortunately have lost their battle.
For those who went into remission, there’s now good news on how they can reduce the chance of recurrence of the cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has released new guidelines that encourage doctors to talk about diet, exercise and weight loss. These new guidelines are based on more than 100 studies that involved cancer survivors. These studies pointed to increased survival rates and lower cancer recurrence when the patients ate a healthy diet and exercised, according to a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The ACS’s Director of Nutrition and Physical Activity Colleen Doyle reported that research found that these lifestyle changes actually “can reduce the chance of recurrence and increase the likelihood of disease-free survival after a diagnosis of cancer. Big news.”
That is big news! And here’s more of what you need to know about these lifestyle choices and cancer:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Doyle warns that being overweight has been linked to increased recurrence of cancer and to decreased survival rates for breast, prostate and colon cancer survivors. There also may be other cancers that may be affected by extra weight. The ACS warns that being overweight or obese is linked with an increased risk of breast, colon and rectum, endometrium, esophagus, kidney and pancreatic cancers. Having extra body weight also may increase the risk of other types of cancer, such as gallbladder, liver, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, cervix, ovary and aggressive forms of prostate cancer. In addition, the ACS warns that belly fat has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and may be linked to increased risks of cancers of the pancreas, endometrium, and breast cancer (for postmenopausal women).
- Exercise - Doyle notes that researchers are finding that once a person has received cancer diagnosis, exercise has been “associated with a lower risk of the cancer coming back and improved overall survival among multiple cancer survivor groups, including breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancer.” In fact, studies have found that colon cancer survivors who exercise reduce their risk of a recurrence of the cancer by approximately 50 percent. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (or a combination of these two) weekly and encourages that this activity be spread throughout the week. Children and teens should participate in at least one hour of moderate activity (such as a brisk walk, dancing, yoga, mowing the lawn doubles, tennis, skating and canoeing) or vigorous activity (such as jogging, fast biking, aerobic dance, jumping rope, soccer, basketball, singles tennis, carrying and hauling, and carpentry) each day and should engage in vigorous activity at least three days during the week. The ACS recommends limiting sedentary behavior (such as sitting or lying down) and notes that any physical activity can be beneficial.
- Eat a healthy diet – Doyle suggests that the combination of foods in a healthy diet may provide the best protection against the recurrence of cancer. The ACS recommends eating a total of at least two-and-a-half cups of vegetables and fruits daily; be sure to eat a variety and opt for whole fruits and vegetables. Limit the amount of red meat and processed meats, and choose lean cuts and eat smaller portions. You should try to eat more fish, poultry or beans instead of red meat. Also, how you cook meat (as well as poultry and fish) makes a difference; baking, broiling and poaching are better than frying or charbroiling. Select whole-grain breads, pasta and cereals as well as brown rice. The ACS also recommends limiting your consumption of refined carbs such as pastries, candy and breakfast cereals. The ACS also suggests that you limit your consumption of alcohol to two daily drinks for men and one daily drink for women.
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