Smoking Cessation, Diet, and Exercise May Influence Survival in Cancer Survivors

Smoking, exercise, and diet are behavioral aspects of health that are of increasing interest, because they might influence survival and disease risk in cancer survivors American Association for Cancer Research 2008 Annual Meeting.

Smoking Cessation

Tobacco remains the most preventable cause of death in the United States, but many patients diagnosed with cancer continue to smoke. Although some patients see a cancer diagnosis as an impetus for quitting, others feel that because they already have cancer, there is no reason to stop, and may feel that the damage is already done."

There are many benefits of smoking cessation that are cancer-specific. Patients who stop smoking have improved survival and fewer treatment complications, particularly those diagnosed at an early stage who are undergoing curative resections. However, there are a number of barriers to smoking cessation like heavy nicotine dependence, withdrawal symptoms, inadequate coping strategies, treatment factors, and the presence of smokers in the social network. Educate patients but provide them with referrals and smoking-cessation tools. Staff members might need training to successfully implement smoking-cessation programs.


There is strong interest in the role of exercise in cancer survivors, "Cancer survivors may have less time to benefit from exercise, or they may feel that exercise didn't prevent them from getting cancer in the first place."As of right now, observational research is preliminary but consistent.


There is strong evidence to date about how diet can help prevent some of the diseases that affect cancer survivors. The American Cancer Society and the World Cancer Fund both have dietary guidelines for cancer patients. The guidelines are similar, although there are variations. Both point to weight control as an important component, "They advise to be as lean as possible without being underweight."

Both sets of guidelines stress consumption of fruits and vegetables and limit red meat consumption. One study that compared the typical Western diet with the so-called Prudent (plant based) diet found that there was almost a doubling of death from all causes among those who ate the Western diet.

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2008 Annual Meeting. Presented April 12, 2008.

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