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Healthy Nutrition into Survivorship

A new study in the journal Cancer has revealed that cancer survivors have poorer diets than the average American. Cancer survivors are missing a crucial opportunity to take control of their health.

The study compared the diets of cancer survivors and the diets of those without a history of cancer with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. While both groups had relatively poor diets—cancer survivors’ average score was 47.2, and adults with no history of cancer scored 48.3 out of 100—cancer survivors’ diets were significantly worse [i].

The results show that everyone could stand to eat a little healthier. However, since cancer survivors are at increased risk for long-term health problems like recurrence of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, it’s important they leverage their diet to actively prevent these adverse health outcomes [ii][iii][iv][v].


To Prevent Recurrence, Eat Well

Instead, it looks like cancer survivors are eating even worse than the rest of the country. They are eating more empty calories like solid fats and added sugars, while eating fewer green vegetables and whole grains. Their diets overall are low in fiber, vitamin D, vitamin E, potassium, and calcium, and too high in sodium. Instead of fighting disease, this diet feeds it.

We can’t control our genetics or our health history. But we can choose to make changes that will keep our bodies at their best, like quitting smoking, exercising, and eating a healthy diet. Since cancer survivors are an especially vulnerable group, it’s vital they take steps now to prevent disease in the future.

Are you a cancer survivor? You already know you’re a fighter – why stop now? Keep working for your health every day by fueling it with the nutrients it needs to stay resilient to disease. If overhauling your diet seems overwhelming, start small.


Start Today

What is one healthy change you can make 3 times per week? Maybe it’s swapping out that breakfast pastry for a banana and plain yogurt. It could be topping a salad with your favorite toppings instead of going for a burger at lunch. You could try whole-wheat pasta with pesto instead of white pasta for a hearty dinner. Small changes can add up to big differences for your health and wellbeing.

If you’re not sure where to start, talk to a dietitian, like the certified oncology RDs here at Savor Health. They’ll guide you and help you make changes that will have lasting effects to keep you healthy.


[i] Zhang FF, Liu S, John EM, Must A, Demark-Wahnefried W. Diet quality of cancer survivors and noncancer individuals: Results from a national survey. Cancer. 2015; doi: 10.1002/cncr.29488
[ii] Aziz NM. Cancer survivorship research: State of knowledge, challenges and opportunities. Acta Oncol. 2007; 46: 417-432.
[iii] Demark-Wahnefried W, Jones LW. Promoting a healthy lifestyle among cancer survivors. Hematol Oncol Clin N Am. 2008; 22: 319.
[iv] Ganz PA. Survivorship: Adult cancer survivors. Prim Care. 2009; 36: 721-741.
[v] Yabroff KR, Lawrence WF, Clauser S, Davis WW, Brown ML. Burden of illness in cancer survivors: Findings from a population-based national sample. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004; 96: 1322-1330.
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