Healthy Choices Lowered Health Risks in Cancer Survivors

Metabolic syndrome risk was lower in childhood cancer survivors with healthy lifestyles

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Childhood cancer survivors can be more susceptible to heart disease and other health problems as adults. But new research shows they can lower their risk through lifestyle choices.

Having a healthy lifestyle decreased the risk for metabolic syndrome in those who survived cancer as children, researchers found.

"Maintain a healthy lifestyle to lower metabolic syndrome risk."

This study was conducted by Kirsten Ness, PhD, of St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, and colleagues.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase a person’s chances of heart disease and other conditions like diabetes and stroke. The risk factors include high blood pressure, abnormal blood sugar and too much body fat.

People who had cancer as children and were treated with radiation to the head were more likely than those treated with other types of radiation to have metabolic syndrome.

The authors of this study found that eating well and exercising lowered the risk for the syndrome.

The researchers looked at participants in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study and included 1,598 adults who had cancer as children. All had received their diagnoses at least 10 years earlier.

The researchers used body measurements, dietary information, and exercise levels to calculate a score based on the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines

They found that those who followed these guidelines by exercising and reducing their consumption of red meat and sodium were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

Females who did not follow at least four of seven recommendations were 2.4 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than women who did. For men who did not follow the guidelines, the risk was 2.2 times greater.

Researchers diagnosed metabolic syndrome in 31.8 percent of patients, and diagnoses were based on having three or more symptoms associated with the condition. These symptoms were stomach obesity, high triglycerides (fats in the blood), low HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

Twenty-seven percent of the patients followed the guidelines for a healthy lifestyle.

After including other factors like smoking and age in their research, the study authors found that nearly a third of those with metabolic syndrome could link the condition to not following the health guidelines.

The authors concluded that making healthy choices lowered the risk of metabolic syndrome for childhood cancer survivors.

Deborah Gordon, MD, nutrition expert and operator of an integrative medical practice based in Ashland, OR, said she doesn’t agree with the study message.

“Although the study focuses on the laudable goal of improving the health of childhood cancer survivors, it unfortunately takes a scientifically outdated set of standards to assess dietary excellence," she said "Since the initiation of the study in 2007, it has become apparent to many researchers that it is the consumption of refined carbohydrates, not red meat and saturated fat, that increase abdominal obesity, serum triglycerides, plasma glucose and blood pressure, while saturated fats in the diet play the greatest dietary role in boosting healthy HDL numbers.

"Although the study explores an interesting area, certain aspects of the dietary guidelines did not further the study participants' health in the best way possible. I think the significance of the distinction is that a diet that allows meat (preferably grass-fed) and healthy meat consumption, but restricts refined carbohydrates, might have both better compliance and better results.”

Some of the researchers reported receiving grant funding and working for pharmaceutical companies like Novo Nordisk.

The study was published July 28 in Cancer.

Review Date: 
July 25, 2014
Last Updated:
July 30, 2014