Balanced diet may be key to cancer survival

June 13, 2018 by Alan Mozes, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Eating a nutritionally balanced high-quality diet may lower a cancer patient's risk of dying by as much as 65 percent, new research suggests.

The finding that total , rather than specific nutritional components, can affect a 's prognosis "was particularly surprising to us," said the study's lead author, Ashish Deshmukh.

Total diet, he explained, was one that appeared to be "balanced" and "nutrient-rich" with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and dairy.

Deshmukh is an assistant professor with the University of Florida's College of Public Health and Health Professions.

To explore the impact of nutrition on cancer, the researchers sifted through data collected between 1988 and 1994 by the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Almost 34,000 people were included in the survey, which asked all participants to offer up a 24-hour diet diary.

The team then used the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" as a yardstick for ranking the nutritional quality of the diets used by 1,200 people who had been diagnosed with cancer.

The USDA guidelines specify serving recommendations for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, dairy, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

In turn, all 1,200 patients were then tracked for an average of 17 years, with researchers verifying all subsequent deaths—up to 2011—through the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics Linked Mortality Files.

By that point, half the cancer patients had died.

But the research team found that those who had consumed the most nutritious diets overall had a 65 percent lower risk for dying—either from cancer or any other cause—than those who had consumed the worse diets.

Deshmukh noted that the investigation did not assess the exact length of the survival benefit, nor did the researchers explore how exercise or other types of healthy behavior may impact cancer outcomes. Only an association was seen between diet and death risk, not a cause-and-effect link.

But the researchers noted that the overall strength of the protective benefit of eating well held up even after digging deeper to look at the specific risk of dying from certain types of cancer, including skin cancer and breast cancer.

"It is most critical that and their start talking about [a] balanced diet," said Deshmukh. "It is also crucial that cancer survivors work with their dietitians to identify a balanced diet regimen, and then follow that regimen.

"There are no harms [from] healthful eating," he added.

Marjorie Lynn McCullough is a senior scientific director of epidemiology research with the American Cancer Society. She noted that the "study had some limitations, such as not controlling for smoking, and evaluating older nutrition guidelines which have since been modified." She was not involved with the study.

But, she added, the findings are "generally consistent with growing evidence supporting recommendations to eat a healthy diet for cancer survivors."

Like the guidelines for cancer prevention, McCullough said, that means lowering the intake of sugar and empty calories by consuming "a mostly plant-based diet, including a variety of vegetables, whole fruits and whole grains, in addition to exercise and achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.

"However, nutrition needs can vary during treatment, recovery and over the long term," she cautioned, "so survivors should work with their care practitioner to tailor advice on nutrition and physical activity to their situation."

The findings were published June 12 in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

Explore further: Low-fat diet tied to better breast cancer survival

More information: Ashish A. Deshmukh, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, department of health services research, management and policy, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida, Gainesville; Marjorie Lynn McCullough, Sc.D., R.D., senior scientific director, epidemiology research, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; June 12, 2018, JNCI Cancer Spectrum

There's more on nutrition and cancer at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Related Stories

Low-fat diet tied to better breast cancer survival

May 24, 2018
(HealthDay)—Breast cancer patients who adopted a low-fat diet were more likely to survive for at least a decade after diagnosis, compared to patients who ate fattier fare, new research shows.

Achieving a healthier you after breast cancer

April 26, 2018
There are more than 3 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., with more than 1 in 8 American women forecasted to face the disease during their lifetime.

Want to help beat colon cancer? Live healthy

April 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—More than 1.3 million Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer, but new research suggests that adopting a healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward boosting survival.

Cancer survivors often have poor diets, which can affect their long-term health

October 13, 2015
While most cancer survivors in the United States are motivated to seek information about food choices and dietary changes to improve their health, a new study comparing their dietary patterns to federal guidelines indicates ...

A new study reveals poor eating habits among those who have survived cancer

November 9, 2015
Last month, Americans read the latest nutrition news with horror—researchers had established a link between cured meats and cancer. Even so, most people probably won't be skipping bacon at brunch this weekend—we're often ...

Report: Whole grains decrease colorectal cancer risk, processed meats increase the risk

September 7, 2017
Eating whole grains daily, such as brown rice or whole-wheat bread, reduces colorectal cancer risk, with the more you eat the lower the risk, finds a new report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the ...

Recommended for you

Treatment shown to improve the odds against bone marrow cancer

December 15, 2018
Hope has emerged for patients with a serious type of bone marrow cancer as new research into a therapeutic drug has revealed improved outcomes and survival rates.

Immunotherapy combo not approved for advanced kidney cancer patients on the NHS

December 14, 2018
People with a certain type of advanced kidney cancer will not be able to have a combination of two immunotherapy drugs on the NHS in England.

New drug seeks receptors in sarcoma cells, attacks tumors in animal trials

December 13, 2018
A new compound that targets a receptor within sarcoma cancer cells shrank tumors and hampered their ability to spread in mice and pigs, a study from researchers at the University of Illinois reports.

Surgery unnecessary for many prostate cancer patients

December 13, 2018
Otherwise healthy men with advanced prostate cancer may benefit greatly from surgery, but many with this diagnosis have no need for it. These conclusions were reached by researchers after following a large group of Scandinavian ...

Combining three treatment strategies may significantly improve melanoma treatment

December 12, 2018
A study by a team led by a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigator finds evidence that combining three advanced treatment strategies for malignant melanoma—molecular targeted therapy, immune checkpoint blockade ...

Researchers use computer model to predict prostate cancer progression

December 12, 2018
An international team of cancer researchers from Denmark and Germany have used cancer patient data to develop a computer model that can predict the progression of prostate cancer. The model is currently being implemented ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.