MANY LIFESTYLE CHANGES HAVE BEEN PROVEN to reduce the risk of getting cancer, but what modifications should you make if you have already received a cancer diagnosis? Eating a nutritious diet and being active remain key to improving health after being diagnosed with cancer.

In March 2022, the American Cancer Society released an updated nutrition and physical activity guideline for cancer survivors, offering steps survivors can take to lower their chances of recurrence and death. Not surprisingly, this advice, which includes guidance from other cancer-focused organizations, in large part mirrors established guidelines for cancer prevention and overall health.


However, these recommendations, compiled from multiple sources and summarized below, are supported by growing evidence specific to cancer survivors. For example, the guideline cites studies that show bladder and breast cancer survivors who maintain a healthy weight are less likely to have a recurrence than those with obesity, and that breast, colorectal and prostate cancer survivors with the most hours of physical activity per week after diagnosis have lower rates of death from any cause than survivors who are the least active.

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Eat Healthy

• Ask your health care team to assess your diet and for a referral to a registered dietitian if needed.

• Fill your plate with plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.

• Limit or avoid sugar-sweetened beverages; red and processed meats; processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars; and pickled, salt-cured and smoked foods.

Stay Active

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• See if a member of your health care team can provide a physical activity assessment.

• Get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking or yoga, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, such as running or tennis—or some combination of both exercise intensities—each week.

• Perform strength-training
activities at least two days per week.

• Avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

Watch Your Body Weight

• Maintain a healthy weight.

• Preserve or increase muscle mass.

Limit Alcohol Use

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• Avoid alcohol.

• If you drink alcohol, consume it in moderation—no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Sources: American Association for Cancer Research, American Cancer Society, American College of Sports Medicine, American Institute for Cancer Research, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, World Cancer Research Fund

Thomas Celona is the associate editor for Cancer Today.