In addition to the research and clinical interventions at M.D. Anderson, some programs are designed to encourage children, young adults, their families, and communities to adopt healthier lifestyles that can prevent cancer from developing in the first place. More than one-third of survivors of childhood cancer in the United States are overweight or obese; therefore, a healthier youth is a good place to start. 

Eating right can be challenging for cancer patients when eating at all is difficult because of surgery or because side effects of chemotherapy. The parents of young patients often let them eat anything they want. This approach would be fine, except that it may establish a pattern of unhealthy eating and behavior that continues after treatment. The ON (Optimizing Nutrition) to Life Program, directed by Joya Chandra, PhD, associate professor at M.D. Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, promotes healthful eating habits for patients and survivors through education, behavior sciences, and research. One innovation is a free online and mobile cookbook, @TheTable ( with recipes created for and tested by kids. 

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The medical community’s battle with obesity is reflected in ongoing research on food addiction and studies on the importance of initiating and maintaining exercise to reduce the risk of cancer and other obesity related chronic illnesses, and increase the odds of survival. The initiative is new but already expanding. Podcasts, clubs, lectures, conferences, and comprehensive Web sites are available. 

The Center for Energy Balance 
in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship is a new project that has just begun at M.D. Anderson. For more information, visit the Center’s Web site at
cancer-prevention-and-survivorship/index.html. ONA 

Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey.


1. Obesity and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet. National Cancer 
Institute Web site. Accessed July 16, 2013.

2. Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Web site. Accessed July 15, 2013.