Cautious Optimism for Survivorship Findings at AICR Afternoon Session

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Moving more every day in any way is an important component to cancer survival.

At the Diet, Physical Activity and Survivorship session of AICR’s annual meeting, leading researchers pointed to the latest developments in lifestyle changes that might affect risk and death from major cancers. Catherine M. Alfano of the National Cancer Institute stressed the desire of cancer survivors, now numbering more than 12 million in the US, to “take control and actively participate” in beating cancer.

In breast cancer, physical activity has been studied most and found to have an impact on preventing recurrence and improving quality of life, as well as reducing negative side-effects of treatment.

Human trials looking at the impact of physical activity, diet and obesity on other kinds of cancers are sorely needed — as borne out by evidence presented by Jeffrey Meyerhardt, Ph.D, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who noted that studies linking physical activity with preventing colon cancer have shown clear results, but design of studies on survivors have varied.

Finding evidence on recurrence and mortality is more complex, Dr. Meyerhardt said, such as in looking into the various stages of colon cancer diagnosis, so these studies must be large and long-term, accumulating data over decades.

Prostate cancer and physical activity also has not been adequately studied, although presenter Edward Giovanucci, MD, of Harvard University said that being active before diagnosis is best, and that vigorous activity seemed to help survivors in the later stages of prostate cancer. He noted that brisk walking (3 miles an hour or more) for at least 7 hours per week did seem to have a positive effect in a small study of prostate cancer survivors. As for obesity, studies so far do not show an effect on survival from prostate cancer, but they may affect screening and treatment effectiveness, which may in turn affect survival of this cancer. A low-fat diet also seems to help survival rates.

The presenters emphasized the many health benefits of a physically active and prudent-diet lifestyle besides the likely cancer prevention and survival benefits, including lower risk for diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health problems — in other words it’s smart to make healthy changes while we are still healthy so that even after a cancer diagnosis, we are more likely to survive.

Share Your “Never Too Late” Successes — and Challenges

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We’re pleased to announce AICR’s It’s Never Too Late to Lower Your Risk awareness campaign.

Although you can’t control aging – which is the number one risk factor for cancer – the good news is you can make small, everyday changes to prevent or delay cancer at any age.  On our Never Too Late web section, folks age 50 and over will find many ideas, strategies and tips designed specifically to help them take important, but achievable, steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

You will probably begin to feel better as you begin to make diet and physical activity changes, too.  Many people report having more energy, sleeping better and managing stress more effectively – a win-win situation as you lower your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.

But maintaining these changes can be challenging.  Support and new ideas are crucial in maintaining your good work or for getting back on track.

This is where you can share your successes and challenges, offer encouragement and connect to others working toward the same goal.  Use the comment section below to let us know what you’re doing, how you’re progressing, what the challenges are and how you’re overcoming those obstacles.

Low Impact Activity – High Impact on Cancer Survivorship

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We’ve known about the importance of physical activity in lowering risk for several cancers – in fact, AICR recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, working up to 60 minutes for more protection.

But now there are physical activity recommendations for cancer survivors as well – to improve well-being and perhaps lower the risk of recurrence.  You can read more about the published report and the recommendations for breast cancer survivors here.  The bottom line is that patients and survivors should avoid inactivity.

Getting active may seem more difficult if you experience joint pain, but fortunately it is possible to achieve your minimum 30 minutes of physical activity with low impact activities.  Our Coach’s Corner article in this week’s eNews discusses low impact activities and offers some specific things you can do without putting more stress on your joints.

Low impact doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard.  It just refers to the impact your movements have on your joints.  You’ll still work up a sweat and get your heart rate up and experience the benefits of physical activity.

For more information on getting started, check out AICR’s newest brochure Start Where You Are.