Healthy Life, Longer Life for Cancer Patients

Elderly cancer patients live longer by maintaining a healthy lifestyle

(RxWiki News) Whether it's walking, swimming or lifting weights, being active pays off now. And maintaining the activity pays off later, especially to help former cancer patients live longer lives.

Keeping active physically, maintaining a healthy weight and eating right helps extend life after being diagnosed with cancer among elderly female patients who beat cancer, according to a study presented at a conference.

"Keep up physical activity to stay healthy."

In an effort to decrease the risk of cancer, the 2007 World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research set guidelines for physical activity, diet and body weight among cancer patients.

Researchers led by Maki Inoue-Choi, PhD, RD, research associate in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, looked at the number of former cancer patients who followed these health guidelines.

The study included 2,080 women from the Iowa Women's Health Study. Each was diagnosed with cancer between 1986 and 2002.

The women were surveyed on their body weight, dietary intake, level of physical activity and other lifestyle traits in 2004.

Researchers looked at the data by age, general health, number of conditions each patient had, type and stage of cancer, type of treatment, whether they currently smoke and any other cancer diagnoses they may have.

They identified 495 deaths between 2004 and 2009. Cancer caused 197 of those deaths, and 153 were caused by cardiovascular disease.

Looking at total deaths overall, the number of deaths among women who scored 6-8 on the adherence test was 37 percent lower compared to those who scored 0-4.

They also found that the number of deaths was lower among women who were cancer-free at least five years, had breast cancer, and fell within the 'other cancers' category, meaning cancers other than breast, colorectal and endometrial.

Scores on these tests didn't affect the number of cardiovascular deaths.

And risk of death was lower among those who met the physical activity recommendations after adjusting the diet and body weight scores.

After looking at physical activity scores, meeting the dietary recommendations did not affect the number of deaths.

"Elderly female cancer survivors who achieve and maintain an ideal body weight, stay physically active and eat a healthy diet have an almost 40 percent lower risk for death compared with women who do not follow these recommendations," Dr. Inoue-Choi said in a press release.

The study was presented October 16-19 at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

The National Cancer Institute funded the study. 

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Review Date: 
October 20, 2012