In a large, nationally representative sample, researchers found that survivors of cancer had received guidance on lifestyle factors at lower rates than did people without a cancer history. Results of this analysis were recently published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The study was based on an analysis of data obtained from 2016 through 2017 through the National Health Interview Survey. Participants were categorized based on a range of demographic and health-related factors. They were also asked about any discussions during the prior 12 months they may have had with healthcare providers regarding diet, physical activity or exercise, weight loss, or smoking. Included participants had seen a healthcare provider during the 12 months prior to completing the survey.

A total of 4792 cancer survivors and 44,385 participants with no cancer history were included in the analysis. Participants with a body mass index of 25 to <60 kg/m2 were advised to begin a weight loss program at rates of 9.2% for survivors of cancer and 11.6% for participants without a cancer history (P <.001).

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An increase in physical activity was advised for 31.7% of all patients with a cancer history, compared with 35.3% of participants with no cancer history (P <.001). A general discussion of diet occurred with 27.6% of survivors of cancer, compared with 32.2% of those without a cancer history (P <.001). Guidance regarding smoking was given at similar rates to current smokers in each patient population (67.3% of survivors of cancer vs 69.9% of other participants; P =.309).

The researchers noted that a cancer history may increase patients’ vulnerability to health-related complications. However, healthcare providers appeared to address guidance regarding health-related lifestyle factors at lower rates for survivors of cancer than for other patients.

“Importantly, as the cancer survivor population continues to grow, oncology teams need to make helping individuals live well with and beyond their cancer, not simply survive treatment, a priority,” concluded the researchers in their report.


Arem H, Duan X, Ehlers DK, Lyon ME, Rowland JH, Mama SK. Provider discussion about lifestyle by cancer history: a nationally representative survey. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. Published December 2, 2020. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-1268