All-cause mortality is reduced in elderly female cancer survivors who adhere to lifestyle guidelines

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Survival after cancer diagnosis in elderly female cancer survivors is improved by achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy diet.

A research team examined the adherence of cancer survivors to the 2007 World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) guidelines for body weight, physical activity, and diet. The study participants included 2,080 women from the Iowa Women's Health Study who had a confirmed cancer diagnosis between 1986 and 2002 and who completed a follow-up questionnaire in 2004. The participating women provided information on body weight, physical activity level, dietary intake, and other demographic and lifestyle factors.

The researchers used annual linkage with the State of Health Registry of Iowa and the National Death Index to identify 495 deaths from 2004 to 2009. The deaths included 197 from cancer and 153 from cardiovascular disease. Once the researchers adjusted for age, number of comorbid conditions, general health, smoking, type and stage of cancer, current cancer treatment, and subsequent cancer diagnosis, they found that all-cause mortality was 37% lower for women whose adherence scores were highest (6 to 8) compared with those whose scores were lowest (0 to 4).

Reaching the WCRF/AICR physical activity recommendation was also associated with lower risk of death from any cause, from cardiovascular disease, or from cancer, after the researchers adjusted for dietary and body weight adherence scores and other covariates. However, reaching dietary recommendations was not associated with mortality following adjustment for body weight and physical activity recommendation adherence scores.

“Elderly female cancer survivors who achieve and maintain an ideal body weight, stay physically active, and eat a healthy diet have an almost 40% lower risk for death compared with women who do not follow these recommendations,” said Maki Inoue-Choi, PhD, RD, research associate in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.

This study was presented at the 11th Annual American Association for Cancer Research International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, which was held in Anaheim, California, on October 16-19, 2012.
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