How to Prevent Cancer from Returning

Your health strategy

Thanks to earlier diagnoses and better treatment, more patients are surviving cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an estimated 65 percent of U.S. cancer survivors live five or more years after their diagnosis. The American Cancer Society offers these guidelines, backed by years of research, on how to improve cancer survival and help prevent recurrence.

fruits and vegetables

1. Fill your plate with a colorful variety of food

Studies that focus mostly on breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers have associated a high intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with a decreased rate of cancer recurrence. The studies also suggest that a wide variety of healthful foods confer more benefit than a few specific foods.

2. Don’t skimp on the good stuff

Aim for two to three cups of vegetables and one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit daily.

3. Limit red meat

In one study, colon cancer survivors who consumed a high intake of red meat had a decreased rate of overall survival from cancer and other conditions.

4. Stay away from sugar

Although studies haven’t tied high intake of sugar to cancer recurrence, try to stay away from it—foods high in added sugar, like soft drinks, tend to have little dietary value and contribute to unwanted weight gain.

5. Avoid dietary supplements

No study has shown that a supplement helps protect against future cancers or improves long-term survival, and some suggest supplements actually may do more harm than good. Try to get your nutrients from food instead.

6. Take a walk

Studies of people with breast, colorectal, prostate, and ovarian cancers consistently point to an association between regular exercise and decreased risk of cancer recurrence and improved overall survival. At the least, try to move around in three 10-minute increments each day.

7. Lift weights

Devote at least two exercise sessions a week to strength training. Begin activity as soon as possible after diagnosis or treatment.

8. Maintain a healthy weight

If you’re overweight or obese, it’s essential that you lose weight: Increasing evidence shows that excessive weight is a good indicator of cancer recurrence or poor overall survival outlook.

Meet Our Writer

HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into in 2018.