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Childhood cancer survivors failing to meet healthy-living guidelines in adulthood

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Patients who survive a childhood cancer do not necessarily lead healthier lives in adulthood, according to observations from the National Cancer Institute-funded Chicago Healthy Living Study. In findings published in Journal of Cancer Survivorship, investigators reported that childhood cancer survivors do not adhere more closely to healthy-eating guidelines than their cancer-free peers.

Childhood cancer survivors face specific healthcare challenges and have a higher likelihood of early death, when compared with the general population. The childhood cancer survivor population has a higher risk of second cancers, heart disease, body weight disorders and psychosocial problems. This has led to the development of specific recommendations in the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity, in order to encourage healthy living in this population.

In response to the lack of data on adherence of cancer survivors to these guidelines, investigators from The University of Ilinois (IL, USA) conducted structured, health-focused interviews with 431 childhood cancer survivors and 361 individuals without prior diagnoses. The survivors were aged between 18 and 59 years and had all been diagnosed with a malignant cancer prior to age 21.

No significant difference in adherence to the American Cancer Society guidelines between the survivors and control group was observed. Survivors had an average body mass index approximately 1.2kg/m2 lower than members of the control group. The survivor group smoked less but also consumed less fiber, with only 10.2% of survivors meeting fiber recommendations. Fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations are also not being met in the survivor group, with only 17.7% eating the recommended five portions per day. Survivors were observed to be more likely to meet the recommended five hours of moderate activity per week but overall only 0.7% of survivors were found to meet all guidelines.

Summarizing the group’s work, coauthor Chloe Berdan (ProMedica, OH, USA) stated: “There is still much room for improvement in educating and encouraging survivors to follow healthier diets and lifestyles. Adopting such behavior during early adulthood may have a lasting impact on their quality of life and overall survival.”

Sources: Berdan CA, Tangney CC, Scala C, Stolley M. Childhood cancer survivors and adherence to the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity. J.Cancer Survivorship doi:10.1007/s11764-014-0376-0 (2014) (Epub ahead of print); Springer press release

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