Week of April 16, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: It seems like there's more and more talk about exercise for cancer survivors. Why?

A: With a growing number of cancer survivors, there's been a lot more studies on activity and survivorship over the past decade. Based on the research, the American College of Sports Medicine published evidence-based exercise guidelines for Cancer Survivors in 2010. The bottom line advice from these experts is, "avoid inactivity." First, cancer survivors are as vulnerable or more than others to heart disease and diabetes, and regular physical activity offers major benefits to prevent or manage both. Beyond that, a published review of 82 studies on physical activity and cancer survivors reported that though effects are not huge, regular physical activity improves fitness, muscular strength, weight management, overall activity level and quality of life, both during and especially after conclusion of treatment. Fatigue is commonly reported as a barrier to activity, yet overall studies show physical activity reduces fatigue, especially among breast and prostate cancer survivors and in the post-treatment phase of life. Survivors with extreme fatigue, however, which could signal anemia or other problems that need attention, should get this resolved before beginning exercise. This review of research found that quality of life, fatigue and depression improved most with moderate rather than light exercise and in supervised programs and sessions of 30 minutes or more in length. Significant strength-training (resistance type) exercise seems to offer particular benefits, especially for prostate cancer survivors undergoing androgen deprivation treatment. Breast cancer survivors with arm or shoulder problems related to treatment should get these treated before beginning a program of upper body exercise. Overall, cancer survivors are urged to gradually incorporate both aerobic and strength training into their lifestyles, but to do so wisely with input from their physician and, ideally, an exercise trainer with cancer-specific expertise. Survivors can check with their local cancer treatment center for suggestions, and with the local YMCA to see if they participate in the LiveSTRONG partnership with the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Q: Is it true that almonds with the skins are more nutritious than the skinless blanched type?

A: Just one ounce of almonds with or without their skins provides more than half the vitamin E recommended for a whole day. They are also equal as good sources of magnesium, fiber and natural plant sterols that may help control blood cholesterol. The big difference is that the skins contain the majority of the flavonoid phytochemical content in almonds. Some research suggests that there may be synergy in which flavonoids in the skin and the vitamin E in the nut "meat" provide greater health benefits together than they would individually. Whole almonds, with the brown skin left on, are therefore a great choice, but if you are making a particular dish that you think will be better with slivered blanched almonds, you certainly are still getting plenty of good nutrition.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

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