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National Cancer Institute

Post Treatment Health: The Current State of Interventions

Presentation 3: Cancer Survivorship – Hungry and In Need of Dietary Change. How Can We Set the Table To Promote Changes That Really Count?

Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N.
Associate Professor of Surgery and Director, Program of Cancer Prevention, Detection and Control Research
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, NC

  • Between 70 and 84 percent of cancer survivors take dietary supplements despite a lack of solid data on the advantages and disadvantages of these supplements. Some supplements actually may put survivors at greater risk for further health problems, underscoring the need for further research concerning the benefits and risks of supplements on cancer and health in general.
  • Being overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis is associated with poorer survival for breast, prostate, and colon cancer, and with increased risk for endometrium, breast (postmenopausal), colon, kidney, and gall bladder cancer.
  • Premenopausal breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy tend to lose lean body mass and gain fat, resembling an accelerated aging process.
  • Cancer survivors report more problems with work and daily activities than the general population, and increased BMI is associated with increased problems.
  • Preliminary data from the “Fresh Start” Program, which seeks to encourage healthy diet and exercise and other behaviors that affect overall health in breast and prostate cancer survivors, showed that participants could increase exercise and consumption of fruit and vegetables, and decrease their consumption of calories from fat, through education and counseling.
  • Results from Project LEAD, designed to encourage healthy diet and exercise in elderly cancer survivors, also showed a slight increase in healthy behaviors and physical function in participants receiving tailored educational materials.

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