Exercise and Diet Support Slows Cancer Survivor Decline

Counseling and health information helps patients lose weight and slows functional decline
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise, diet and weight loss support can slow the functional decline of long-term cancer survivors, according to a study in the May 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Miriam C. Morey, Ph.D., of Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues recruited 641 overweight breast cancer, colorectal and prostate cancer survivors (body mass index ≥25 and <40, ages 65 to 91 years, and survival of at least five years) and randomized them to receive either a 12-month program consisting of counseling by telephone and mailers on exercise, improved diet, and weight control (319 patients), or no intervention for 12 months (322 patients). Scores at baseline and at 12 months on the Short-Form 36 physical function subscale (0-100) were compared. Secondary outcomes included changes on the lower extremity function subscales of the Late Life Function and Disability Index (0-100).

While both groups reported a decline in functionality from the mean baseline score of 75.7 on the Short-Form 36, the researchers found that the intervention group declined less rapidly over the 12-month study period (−2.15) compared with the control group (−4.84). The mean baseline score of 78.2 in basic lower extremity function increased slightly (0.34) in the intervention group and decreased in the control group (−1.89). Weight loss was greater in the intervention group than in the control group.

"Among older, long-term survivors of colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer, a diet and exercise intervention reduced the rate of self-reported functional decline compared with no intervention," the authors write.

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