After Cancer, a Healthy Lifestyle Is Important

March 21, 2017

January 2016

After Cancer, a Healthy Lifestyle Is Important

Not smoking. Staying active. Keeping a healthy weight. Eating a well-balanced diet. All these things can prevent certain cancers and make a cancer survivor feel better. For instance, exercise cuts the fatigue that often follows cancer treatment.

Woman jogging outdoors in cold weather

Living healthily also helps you live longer. For example, the American Cancer Society says that eating well could help reduce your risk for cancer and its return. Experts advise a diet that includes at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day.

A missed opportunity

Unfortunately, studies have shown that many cancer survivors are unlikely to exercise, eat right, and maintain a healthy weight. Research in the journal Cancer found that, compared with other cancer survivors, colon and breast cancer survivors were less active. That’s a shame because experts say these survivors could gain the most from activity. And obese breast cancer survivors—another group needing exercise—were even less active than other obese women.

In the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers reported that not even half of cancer survivors met healthy lifestyle goals. But cancer survivors with the healthiest behaviors had the best quality of life.

Moving in a healthy direction

A healthy diet will help you feel stronger, rebuild your body, and cut your risk of getting new cancers. So:

  • Trim fat by baking or broiling, not frying

  • Pick low-fat milk and other dairy products

  • Limit or avoid salt-cured, smoked, and pickled food

  • Limit alcohol intake to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. Women who risk a recurrence of breast cancer may want to avoid alcohol.

Exercise cuts your risk for many diseases besides cancer. To get more active:

  • Wear a pedometer to help you count your steps

  • Pedal an indoor bike or walk a treadmill while watching TV

  • Go dancing

  • Walk or bike instead of driving



Learn more about staying healthy.


Online resources

American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute


March 21, 2017