AICR Ever Green, Ever Healthy
February 2003
Topic: Cancer

Surfing for Survival
by the American Institute for Cancer Research

At one time, a diagnosis of cancer was regarded as a death warrant. Today, due to advances in detection and treatment, more than nine million cancer survivors live in the United States. Sixty-two percent of American adults diagnosed with cancer are alive after five years. More than 70 percent of childhood and adolescent survivors outlive the five-year mark.

For survivors who have finished treatment, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has recently launched an information-rich web resource, Cancer Survivor’s Guide, at The Guide has information to help you or your loved one reduce the risk of secondary tumors and recurrence. Survivors who have been recently diagnosed or are still undergoing treatment also will find links to AICR material for them.

Although many frustrating gaps remain in what scientific research can tell us about the links between diet and exercise and the cancer survivor’s return to a healthy, active life, the Guide may help you make better informed decisions.

Recommendations to Live By

Because cancer creates lasting physical, emotional and psychosocial changes, survivors often feel vulnerable after treatment. Many feel a need for guidance. Many want to know: What can I do to help myself? How can I protect myself against recurring or secondary tumors? How can I return to an active, healthy life?

The following recommendations, included in the Guide, list the most powerful steps a person can take to prevent a secondary tumor or a recurrence of cancer.

The recommendations are divided into seven groups that reflect daily choices about food and activity. The categories are plant-based foods, animal-based foods, fat, salt, alcohol, food preparation and energy balance.

Nutrition Guidelines for Cancer Survivors After Treatment

    1. Choose predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits.
    2. If eaten at all, limit intake of red meat to less than three ounces daily.
    3. Limit consumption of fatty foods, particularly those of animal origin. Choose modest amounts of appropriate vegetable oils.
    4. Limit consumption of salted foods and use of cooking and table salt. Use herbs and spices to season foods.
    5. Limit alcoholic drinks to less than two drinks a day for men and one for women.
    6. Do not eat charred food. Consume the following only occasionally: meat and fish grilled in direct flame, cured and smoked meats.
    7. Avoid being overweight and limit weight gain during adulthood. Take an hour’s brisk walk or similar exercise daily.

In addition to a full explanation and reasons for the seven dietary guidelines, AICR’s Guide contains exercise tips, recipes for good health, lists of resources and helpful organizations, survivor stories and frequently asked questions. One section also offers email contact with a registered dietitian who will answer questions about personal nutrition, generally within two business days.

For a complete overview of the information that the American Institute for Cancer Research offers online, visit

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