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Too Few Cancer Survivors Pursue Healthy Lifestyles
Date:4/30/2008

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The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors engage in 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week, eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and not smoke.

Previous studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can prevent cancer recurrence and prolong survival, yet many of these studies were conducted at elite cancer treatment centers, Stein said.

The new study aimed to get a more realistic portrayal of the issue by asking more than 9,000 survivors about their quality of life. Participants were either two-, five- or 10-year survivors of six different types of cancer.

Only 14.8 percent to 19.1 percent of survivors were meeting the five-a-day fruits and vegetables recommendation, while 29.6 percent to 47.3 percent were meeting the physical activity recommendation.

On the other hand, 82.6 percent to 91.6 percent didn't smoke.

But a mere 5 percent were meeting all three recommendations, up to 12.5 percent weren't complying with any lifestyle behavior recommendations, and less than 10 percent were meeting two or more.

The findings echoed a recent study that found that cancer survivors have rates of obesity and physical inactivity similar to those of the general population. That study, published in the June 1 issue of Cancer, found that less than one-quarter of cancer survivors were regularly physically active, and more than 18 percent were obese.

"We want to focus on survivors because of their increased risk" for other conditions as well as cancer recurrence, Stein said. "In addition, they're in the health-care system, so this is a teachable moment," he added. "We have an opportunity to talk to them about their health, communicate to them, 'Hey, you've dodged a bullet this time, here's an opportunity for you to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of a second cancer or another co-morbid condition and also improving your qual
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