Lifestyle Recommendations Make a Difference for Breast Cancer Survivors Before, During, and After Treatment

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Recently JAMA published the findings from a prospective cohort study of 1,340 high-risk breast cancer patients to evaluate key lifestyle interventions created by the American Cancer Society and the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR).

“The biggest surprise from this study was the size of the effect with 37% reduction in recurrence and 58 percent reduction in all-cause mortality,” explained Nigel Brockton, PhD, who is the Vice President of Research for AICR. “These are impressive numbers, especially considering that this was a high-risk breast cancer population.”

While AICR was not directly involved in this study, they did propose the standardized scoring approach that was used. “This new study led by Dr. Ambrosone relies heavily upon the work that AICR has done to establish the 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations,” said Brockton. “We are delighted to see the impact of our lifestyle recommendations and the real-world application of our collaborations with colleagues at the National Cancer Institute.”

In this latest JAMA study, the researchers chose to track seven of the ten AICR recommendations including:

  1. Healthy weight.
  2. Physical activity.
  3. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  4. Not smoking.
  5. Limited alcohol consumption.
  6. Limited consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  7. Limited consumption of red and processed meat.

The researchers concluded that “Education and implementation strategies to help patients adhere to cancer prevention recommendations throughout the cancer care continuum may be warranted in breast cancer.

AICR has created a Cancer Health Check tool that provides an efficient way to gauge adherence to key cancer prevention recommendations. “It would be ideal if clinicians could use this tool to assess lifestyle, improve lifestyle adherence, and potentially select treatments according to a patient’s lifestyle score or profile,” explained Brockton. 

This study builds on previous research showing that a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. For example, a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis of studies found that a healthy diet, normal body weight, physical activity, limiting alcohol, and not smoking were associated with upwards of a 58 percent lower risk of many types of cancer including breast, colon, and lung.

This is not surprising as the World Cancer Research Fund has shown that 30 to 50 percent of all cancers are preventable by following a healthy diet and lifestyle.

“Studies like the recent JAMA cohort and others really demonstrate the power of lifestyle to improve outcomes,” said Brockton. “Lifestyle should not be an afterthought. We need to ensure that lifestyle assessment be built into all clinical trials.”

Integrative practitioners are well-versed in applying the key lifestyle strategies used in this latest study. By doing this in clinical practice, practitioners can help patients reduce the risk of breast and other cancers even in their high-risk patients.