After a cancer diagnosis, patients ask, "What should I eat? What foods should I avoid?
The answers found in magazines and offered by clinicians and purveyors of alternative therapies often paint a confusing picture of contradictions.
A review of observational studies leads to the conclusion that diet and food choices may affect cancer progression, risk of recurrence and overall survival.
Unfortunately, scientists have had difficulty separating the effects of specific dietary constituents from the effects of other factors, such as obesity and physical exercise. And, of course, people eat a wide variety of foods throughout the day, not isolated nutrients or one specific food alone.
What's a Healthy Survivor to do?
Consider the advice presented in the ACS document, Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors (note: my highlight):
Evaluating the relationship between survival and diet as a dietary pattern rather than by focusing only on specific foods may also be informative.
For example, a dietary pattern high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish was found to be associated with reduced mortality compared with a dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of refined grains, processed and red meats, desserts, high-fat dairy products, and French fries in women after breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Healthy Survivors explore ways to benefit from what is known, while waiting for better answers. Regarding diet, an exploration of dietary patterns instead of specific foods or supplements can help patients today.