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WCRF/AICR
Global Network
AICR's Cancer Research Update

Issue 46 — June 30, 2010

Also in this issue:

  1. In Brief: More Activity; Same Obesity
  2. Broccoli for Bladder Cancer Survivors
  3. High Vitamin D Not Protective Against Rare Cancers
  4. Unknowing Parents with Plump Tots
Trio of seniors hiking with walking sticks

Science in the Spotlight:
Cancer Survivors: Getting Active and Healthy

There are now almost 12 million cancer survivors in the United States. New exercise recommendations highlight the emerging body of research showing that everyday lifestyle choices can play an important role in cancer survivorship.

Avoiding Inactivity

Historically, clinicians often advised cancer patients to rest and avoid activity. But not anymore. New recommendations urge survivors to avoid inactivity, even cancer patients undergoing treatment.

Published in the July issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the recommendations stem from a review of the research by experts in the field of cancer and exercise.

According to the new guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine, cancer survivors should aim to get the same amount of exercise the government recommends for the average person: 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Survivors should also do muscle training and flexibility exercises.

"The research continues to show that diet and physical activity make a difference for cancer patients and survivors," said AICR Director of Research Susan Higginbotham, MS, MPH, RD. "Small, everyday changes can help cancer patients deal with the side effects of treatment, as well as help prevent recurrence and secondary cancers down the road."

However, the level of supervision needed for cancer survivors to exercise safely varies and clinicians will need to adapt exercise programs to the individual survivor.

Foods for Fighting Cancer

Another active area of research in cancer survivorship investigates the role of diet and body weight. Good nutrition is vitally important for survivors, but it can be a challenge. Patients during treatment often have side effects that alter appetite and taste. After treatment, survivors are often left questioning what foods they should eat and which foods can decrease or increase future cancer risk.

AICR’s educational DVD "Food for the Fight" gives practical dietary strategies aimed to help cancer survivors manage their way through treatment and prevent recurrence.

Developed by AICR in partnership with New York-Presbyterian Hospital, "Food for the Fight: Guidelines for Healthy Nutrition During and After Cancer Treatment" contains interviews by experts, patient stories and cooking demonstrations.

"This DVD can help survivors answer many questions, but we hope it also encourages patients to talk with their health professional about their diet and activity plan." says Higginbotham.

Finding the Links for Breast Cancer Survivors

Currently, the majority of studies in lifestyle and survivorship are conducted on breast cancer survivors. In order to provide science-based recommendations, AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) have launched a new study that will systematically analyze the published evidence on the impact of diet, physical activity and body fat in women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The review of the research will provide the most up-to-date information about how breast cancer survivors might improve their quality of life and help prevent recurrence and secondary cancers.

The study, part of AICR/WCRF's Continuous Update Project, follows up on the 2007 expert report, which advised cancer survivors to follow the general recommendations for cancer prevention. Results of the study are expected in Summer 2011.

Visit the Continuous Update Project to learn more.

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In Brief

Chart: Adult Obesity 1997-2009More Activity; Same Obesity

More adults are claiming they exercise yet it hasn’t lowered the obesity rate, according to a new survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, the percent of adults claiming they engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity increased by almost 3 percent (to 34.7 percent) from a year earlier, but the obesity rate held steady, at approximately 28.0 percent.

The prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults aged 20 years and older has generally increased over time from 19.4 percent in 1997 to 28.0 percent in 2009.

For adults of every age group, the survey reported that women engaged in more regular leisure-time physical activity than men.

Source: 2009 U.S. Centers for Disease Control National Health Interview Survey.

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Research Roundup

BroccoliBroccoli for Bladder Cancer Survivors

Consuming just one or more servings of raw broccoli per month is associated with lengthened survival time for bladder cancer survivors, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Although bladder cancer is highly treatable, survivors face relatively high recurrence rates. Earlier laboratory research found that the large family of compounds called isothiocyanates have anti-cancer properties and concentrate at relatively higher levels in the bladder’s urine. Cruciferous vegetables contain a wide variety of isothiocyanates and each can form a unique phytochemical, such as the sulforaphane found in broccoli.

In the study, researchers looked at the fruit and vegetable intake of 239 bladder cancer patients who answered questions about their diet when they were diagnosed. Raw and cooked vegetable consumption was analyzed separately as cooking reduces levels of isothiocyanates. After tracking the patients for an average of 8 years, the study found that patients who consumed the highest amount of raw cruciferous vegetables had the lowest risk of death during the study, whether dying from bladder cancer or any other cause. The strongest link was found between participants who consumed one or more servings of raw broccoli per month and longer survival time from bladder cancer. (The average was almost 4 servings per month.)

There was no link between total fruits, vegetables, or cruciferous vegetables and survival. It is unclear whether the results were due to specific types of isothiocyanates or the amount of isothiocyanates in each vegetable, note the researchers.

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High Vitamin D Not Protective Against Rare Cancers

sunResearch remains unclear as to whether higher blood levels of vitamin D reduce the risk of cancer. A large pooling study has now found no protective effect of Vitamin D against seven relatively rare cancers: non-Hodgkin lymphoma or cancer of the endometrium, esophagus, stomach, kidney, ovary, or pancreas.

The analysis and set of studies was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The pooling analysis gathered data from blood samples—originally drawn from 10 individual studies—to investigate whether people with high levels of vitamin D were less likely to develop these rarer cancers. Researchers examined vitamin D levels in blood that had been collected from over 12,000 men and women participating in one of the studies. Participants were followed for up to 33 years, depending on the study. Across each cancer site, there was no evidence of a protective association between higher concentrations of vitamin D and cancer outcome. An increased risk at extremely high levels was noted for pancreatic cancer, which the researchers note needs further study.

In this collection of study participants, drawn from three continents, the proportion of the population deficient in vitamin D varied from 3 percent to 36 percent. Individuals with higher levels were more likely to be male, lean, and physically active. Those with higher levels also reported greater intake of multivitamins, calcium supplements, and foods rich in vitamin D.

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mom and 2 boys

Unknowing Parents with Plump Tots

The majority of parents with overweight preschoolers don’t realize their child is overweight, but comment from a pediatrician may help, suggests a study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

Of the 150 preschoolers in the study, almost one-third of the 2 to 5 year olds were overweight or obese. Parents were interviewed and asked to select images resembling their child’s weight and a healthy weight child.

Among the parents of an overweight or obese preschooler, about 71 percent of the parents reported their child's weight as either healthy or lighter than healthy weight. And 20 percent of parents with overweight or obese children chose an image that was smaller than that of a healthy weight child.

Among all the parents, only 7 percent recalled their pediatrician telling them their child was gaining weight too quickly or was overweight. Parents were much more likely to misclassify their child's body image if they reported their pediatrician did not comment on the child’s weight.

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