Adherence to federal dietary recommendations is poor among adult survivors of childhood cancers, and the lack of essential dietary nutrients may exacerbate their risks for developing new conditions, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition has shown.1,2

In this epidemiological study from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, researchers evaluated the impact of cancer and its treatment on survivors’ long-term dietary habits. They also sought to determine whether survivors’ consumption of key nutrients and food groups meet recommended levels.

Diet quality was assessed by calculating the mean Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2010 total score, which measures adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as well as component scores and mean intake of dietary nutrients; score ranges from 0, indicating nonadherence, to 100, indicating perfect adherence.

Continue Reading

For this study, researchers assessed the diets of 2570 adult survivors of childhood cancer who were enrolled in the St Jude Lifetime Cohort using a self-administered Block Food Frequency questionnaire, diagnosis and treatment information abstracted from participants’ medical records, and their mean HEI-2010 total scores.

Study results showed that survivors’ intake of whole grains was less than half of the recommended intake (1.2 servings/day vs 3 servings/day); sodium intake was significantly higher than the upper intake level (3566 mg/day vs <2300 mg/day); and calories from added sugars and solid fats were greater than the recommended percent of total calories (14% and 20%, respectively, vs <20% for both). Mean HEI-2010 total score was 57.9.

In addition, diet quality was lower for survivors who were younger than 5 years at diagnosis compared with those who were 5 years or older at diagnosis and for those who received high radiation doses to the abdomen compared with those who received low doses.

Although this study did not compare survivors’ diets with diets of adults who had not had cancer, survivors’ diet quality was worse than age-matched and sex-matched controls in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Use of supplemental vitamins and minerals was also not included in this study.


1. Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus. Study finds link between childhood cancer and poor dietary quality in adulthood. EurekAlert! web site. Accessed October 21, 2016.

2. Zhang FF, Ojha RP, Krull KR, et al. Adult survivors of childhood cancer have poor adherence to dietary guidelines. J Nutr. 2016 Oct 19. [Epub ahead of print]