Can our recommendations improve quality of life for people living beyond cancer?

11 November 2016 | Healthy living, Science and research

Sarah James, Health Information Publications ManagerAt the recent Obesity, Physical Activity and Cancer (OPAC) conference in London, Sarah James spoke to Dr José Breedveld-Peters from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. Dr Breedveld-Peters’ research looks at the link between our Cancer Prevention Recommendations and the quality of life in a group of bowel cancer survivors.


Dr Breedveld-Peters, could you tell us more about your research?

We collected information about 155 bowel cancer survivors to determine to what extent their lifestyles were in line with World Cancer Research Fund’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations and to measure their health-related quality of life. This included how their health affected their ability to do physical things and interact with others, and how it influenced their emotional wellbeing.

What did you find?

We found significant links between how closely the cancer survivors followed your recommendations and both their physical functioning and fatigue. Physical functioning includes the ability to walk long or short distances, and perform daily activities, like bathing.

We already knew from previous studies that World Cancer Research Fund’s recommendation to be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day is associated with a better quality of life in cancer survivors.

However, we now also know that there is an association between all the recommendations combined and the level of physical functioning and fatigue in bowel cancer survivors.

Dr Jose Breedveld-Peters
Pictured above: Dr Jose Breedveld-Peters

What does this mean for bowel cancer survivors?

We found that most cancer survivors don’t follow your 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 your recommendation to eat less red meat.

Perhaps this is not surprising – your recommendations are for the prevention of cancer, and I think that people might not be aware of their possible effect on their broader health and quality of life, and that they 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 bowel cancer survivors.

However, for the time being, we know that if we advise people living beyond bowel cancer treatment to follow your Cancer Prevention Recommendations, there are lots of benefits they might gain for their health and quality of life.


After cancer treatment, the best advice is to follow our Cancer Prevention Recommendations. Your health professional will have more information.

Sarah Drabble | 11 November 2016