Childhood Cancer Survivors with Poor Diet at Risk of Chronic Illness


plate-of-foodA new study suggests that survivors of childhood cancer tend to have a poor diet in their adult life; a diet lacking essential nutrients might increase the risk of chronic disease for survivors of childhood cancer, as they are already more prone to developing serious illnesses.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, in collaboration with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee.

The team examined whether there was a connection between childhood cancer treatment and the survivors’ nutritional intake.

Using a self-administered Block Food Frequency questionnaire, the study looked at the diets of 2,570 adult survivors of childhood cancer to see if they met the requirements of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The results were recently published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers found that study participants had particularly low intakes of whole grains but excessive intakes of sodium and so-called empty calories, which are those from solid fats and added sugars.

The study found “excessive levels of sodium and saturated fat, both of which are risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity,” explains lead researcher Dr Fang Fang Zhang, from Tufts University.

When compared to existing dietary recommendations, we found that childhood cancer survivors consumed below the recommended intake of fibre, potassium, magnesium, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin E,” Dr Zhang added.

Risk of Second Cancer and Chronic Illness Decreased by Healthy Diet

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, low fruit and vegetable consumption and high saturated fat intake may lead to coronary heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes.

By contrast, a diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains – with limited amounts of fat, red and processed meat, as well as low added sugar – may reduce the risk of developing second cancers and the risk of chronic diseases, according to the latest Cancer Treatment and Survivorship report by the American Cancer Society.

Researchers led by Zhang used the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010) to calculate how well study participants adhered to the Dietary Guidelines.

The index works on a scale from zero to 100, where zero indicates no adherence and 100 represents perfect adherence. The group of participants averaged only 57.9 on the scale.

Cancer Care Should Include Nutrition

Both Zhang and Melissa Hudson, M.D., St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, point out the importance of incorporating nutrition into cancer care. “Healthy eating can improve the physical and mental functioning of childhood cancer survivors,” says Dr Zhang.

The findings of this study emphasise the importance of integrating nutritional services and interventions to promote healthy dietary habits in childhood cancer patients during treatment and throughout survivorship care,” said Dr. Melissa Hudson

She goes on to say that “survivors of childhood cancer have a high prevalence of chronic health problems that may be exacerbated by poor nutrition.” A study following up on paediatric cancer survivors found that 50% of them had developed a severe or life-threatening chronic health condition by 50 years of age.

According to another study quoted by the American Cancer Society, more than half of the childhood cancer survivors that underwent potentially toxic treatments – for example, chest radiation or anthracyclines – go on to experience heart or lung problems later in life.

The study led by Dr Zhang did not compare survivors’ diets with the dietary intake of those who have not had cancer. However, Dr Zhang reports that adult cancer survivors have “worse overall diet quality compared to age- and sex-matched controls in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers mention that the current study did not account for dietary supplements, such as vitamins or minerals.

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About LFCT

This is a blog about CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 27 October, 2016, in Blog, nutrition, Research and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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