The American Cancer Society (ACS) has updated its 2003 guidelines on the use of diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements by cancer survivors. These guidelines, often cited as the official statement of the conventional cancer community on complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies, could be improved.
The ACS diet and exercise recommendations continue to be authoritative but not as helpful as they could be.
The diet recommendations describe whole foods diets high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; low in saturated fat; and low in refined sugars. These are important recommendations as a huge body of research shows that a whole foods diet low in processed foods is one of the most effective ways to prevent cancer.
The ACS exercise recommendations push aerobic exercise for nearly every cancer survivor, consistent with evidence showing improved quality of life during cancer treatment with regular exercise. We would like to see more emphasis on strength training.
The disappointing aspect of the new recommendations is their complete dismissal of the growing body of research showing specific nutritional supplements can help with some of the symptoms cancer survivors face. The official statement argues that because antioxidant supplements could potentially prevent chemotherapy from having full treatment effect, all nutritional supplements should be avoided.
The most striking problem with this generalization is that not all nutritional supplements are antioxidants. L-glutamine, often used for the prevention of neuropathy, and vitamin B6, used for the prevention of hand/foot syndrome, are two examples of the many well-researched non-antioxidant nutritional supplements of potential benefit to cancer survivors. Many more clinical pearls of this nature could and should be part of future versions of these guidelines.
Read the full text of the ACS Guidelines.
- Doyle C, Kushi LH, Byers T, et al. Nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment: an American Cancer Society guide for informed choices. CA Cancer J Clin. 2006 Nov-Dec;56(6):323-53.
- Vahdat L, Papadopoulos K, Lange D, et al. Reduction of paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy with glutamine. Clin Cancer Res. 2001 May;7(5):1192-7.
- Fabian CJ, Molina R, Slavik M, et al. Pyridoxine therapy for palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia associated with continuous 5-fluorouracil infusion. Invest New Drugs. 1990 Feb;8(1):57-63.