Just 5 percent of U.S. cancer survivors are meeting experts' recommendations on diet, physical activity and cigarette smoking, a new survey shows.
But the more recommendations a cancer survivor did meet, the better his or her health-related quality of life (HRQoL), Dr. Christopher Blanchard, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and colleagues found.
"It appears that meeting multiple lifestyle recommendations may not only be beneficial from a cancer recurrence/mortality perspective, but also from a HRQoL perspective," they write in the May 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
In 2006, the American Cancer Society issued three recommendations on healthy lifestyle behaviors for America's more than 10 million cancer survivors: get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-strenuous exercise, or an hour of strenuous physical activity every week; eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily; and quit smoking. But research done in the U.S. and Australia has shown that many cancer survivors do not follow these recommendations.
To investigate the percentage of U.S. cancer survivors who followed the recommendations, and see if doing so had a relationship to health-related quality of life, the researchers surveyed 9,105 survivors of six different types of cancer.
Roughly 15 percent to 19 percent were eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, the researchers found, while 30 percent to 47 percent were getting the recommended amount of exercise. From 83 percent to 92 percent had quit smoking.
Overall, 5 percent were meeting all three requirements, while 12.5 percent were meeting none. Fewer than 10 percent of survivors of any of the six cancer types were meeting two or more recommendations.
Among breast, prostate, colorectal, bladder, uterine and melanoma survivors — all of the cancer types the researchers looked at — health-related quality of life rose steadily with the number of lifestyle recommendations met.
In the general U.S. population, the researchers note, an estimated 49 percent meet physical activity recommendations, 24 percent meet the 5-A-Day requirement, and 79.5 percent do not smoke — the one area where cancer survivors in this study were doing better.
"This suggests that a cancer diagnosis may have greater potential to be a 'teachable moment' across several cancer groups in terms of changing smoking behavior, but it may be less effective in changing physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption," the researchers say.