Belaboring the obvious

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Hey, cancer survivors! Now hear this: Eat healthier and exercise more! These remarkably obvious recommendations are part of the latest guidelines for cancer survivors issued by the American Cancer Society (ACS). According to this "groundbreaking" alert, maintaining a healthy weight through proper nutrition and physical exercise can reduce the risk of cancer relapse.

Published online in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, these guidelines resulted from an ACS-convened panel of experts who analyzed data from over 100 studies since 2006 that looked at the effect of exercise and/or diet on cancer survivors. The results demonstrated that such healthy lifestyle habits were associated with lower cancer recurrence rates and longer survival.

"We've got enough data now to make these recommendations," said Colleen Doyle, ACS s director of nutrition and physical activity and co-author of the report. Yet it s important to note that the report was based on research that mostly looked at breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer. There was scant evidence that diet or exercise had any impact on other deadly forms of cancer, such as lung cancer.

Though ACSH staffers are not particularly convinced there are enough data to back-up the ACS guidelines (almost all of the studies involved were observational), there was one message we could get on board with: Nutritional supplements provide no added benefit to cancer survivors. According to Doyle, there is almost no evidence that supplements can help prevent relapse, and, in some instances, they can interfere with treatment and lead to other adverse effects. So it s best to avoid taking them unless a doctor advises their use for specific dietary deficiencies.

Well, that sure is helpful advice," says ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom. "When you have cancer, take care of yourself...who would have thought? And remember don t climb into the tub holding a toaster either.