A new study, which looked at dietary intake among cancer survivors, indicates that the diets of many cancer survivors do not meet 2010 dietary guidelines set by the US Department of Agriculture.
The study, published in Cancer, also shows that many survivors eat poorer-quality diets, more empty calories, and less fiber than the general population.
"These findings reinforce the need for dietary intervention in this high-risk population. Nutrition is one of the cornerstones for cancer prevention and control. Unfortunately, nutrition is not typically integrated into the delivery of optimal care for cancer patients," said Fang Fang Zhang, MD, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Medford, Massachusetts
Dr. Zhang also said that better nutrition could help protect cancer survivors from other chronic illnesses.
"It is important to note that cancer survivors have significantly higher chronic disease burden than the general population. Improving diet quality can be a particularly important focus for cancer survivors to achieve a long and healthy life," she said.
Dr. Zhang pointed out that few large-scale intervention studies have analyzed the impact of dietary changes and specific nutrients on cancer recurrence and survival. More studies are needed in this area, she noted.
The study involved as many as 1533 adult survivors of breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer who participated from 1999 to 2010 in the nationally representative US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Researchers looked at dietary intake of these participants.
The patients were matched with regard to age, race, and ethnicity to 3075 people who did not have a history of cancer.
The investigators evaluated dietary intake using 24-hour dietary recall interviews and diet quality was assessed using the 2010 Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010). The assessing system's higher score indicates better adherence to US dietary guidelines.