Most women who reported eating a healthful diet and being physically active to ward off cancer were, in fact, not meeting the minimum recommendations for cancer prevention, according to recent survey findings.

Approximately 200 women responded to a cross-sectional, national, random-digit-dialed telephone survey conducted by Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, PhD, of the Department of Health Disparities Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and colleagues. The survey addressed women’s perceptions regarding diet, exercise, and cancer prevention. As the investigators noted in Journal of Women’s Health (2013;22[6]:487-493), most women in the United States do not meet minimum recommendations for fruit/vegetable consumption or physical activity, and the resulting overweight/obesity increases the risks for cancer morbidity and mortality.

The survey responses revealed that only 9.9% of women who reported eating a healthy diet met the minimum daily recommendations of two fruit servings and three vegetable servings set forth by the American Cancer Society (ACS). Similarly, just 39.7% of women who said they engaged in regular physical activity actually met the ACS recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days per week.

In analyses adjusted for demographics, low education was associated with reporting regular physical activity to prevent cancer but failing to meet the minimum recommendation. Racial/ethnic minority status was marginally significantly associated with reportedly following a healthful diet to prevent cancer, yet failing to consume sufficient fruits and vegetables.

Vidrine’s group advised that public health messages emphasize the importance of specific doses of recommended behaviors and promote awareness of discrepancies between perceptions and actual behavior.