World Cancer Research Fund recommends that cancer survivors follow our Cancer Prevention Recommendations after treatment, if they are able, to reduce the risk of the cancer returning or of another cancer developing.1

At our recent joint conference on Obesity, Physical Activity and Cancer (OPAC2), we spoke to Dr Jose Breedveld-Peters from the University of Maastricht, Netherlands, about her research investigating how closely colorectal cancer survivors align with our Recommendations and assessing their quality of life.

“We know that colorectal cancer survivors experience many problems with health and functioning – e.g. physical functioning, which is their ability to walk long or short distances, and perform daily activities, like washing themselves. We also know that lifestyle factors, such as diet, body composition and level of physical activity, can influence health and functioning. The purpose of our study is to look at the lifestyles of colorectal cancer survivors and see if there is a link with their quality of life.”

About the study

For the study, 155 colorectal cancer survivors were recruited. All the participants had finished their treatment between 2–10 years ago. Researchers recorded the participants’ height, weight, diet and physical activity levels, and used this information to determine how in line their lifestyles were with World Cancer Research Fund’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations. Participants also answered questions about their health-related quality of life, which Dr Breedveld-Peters explained means, “how well a person is able to do everything that they want to do, and how their health condition influences this.”

What they have found out so far

“We analysed the results and found significant associations between how well all the Recommendations are followed and both physical functioning and fatigue.

“We knew from previous work done by our research group that World Cancer Research Fund’s physical activity recommendation is associated with better quality of life, but we now know there is also an association with how well people align their lifestyles to the other Recommendations and level of physical functioning and fatigue. We still have to look at the other Recommendations individually, but it seems there are associations with the diet-related Recommendations and physical functioning too.

“We found that most cancer survivors don’t follow the Recommendations – for example, only half of the participants kept to the physical activity recommendation; three out of four were overweight or obese; and only one per cent kept to the recommendation about red meat.

“Perhaps this is not surprising - these Recommendations are for the prevention of cancer, and I think that people might not be aware of the effect that lifestyle can have on their broader health and quality of life, and that the Recommendations can also help to prevent all sorts of other diseases.

“We are now building an evidence base to improve current prevention guidance and develop specific recommendations for colorectal cancer survivors. But for now, if we advise colorectal cancer survivors to keep to the Cancer Preventions Recommendations, there are a lot of benefits they might gain for their health and their quality of life.”

References

  1. World Cancer Research Fund UK. Cancer survivors and cancer prevention. 2016.