Provider Recommendations on Diet, Exercise Positively Impact Patient Behavior

April 25, 2022

A new article published in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer journal shares results from a national, online patient survey conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which assessed practice patterns related to weight, diet, and exercise as part of cancer care. The findings suggest provider recommendations for diet, exercise, and weight were associated with positive changes in these behaviors among patients. Authors note that the data support the importance of continued attention to these lifestyle factors as part of oncology care.

Various studies in previous decades have demonstrated the link between obesity and cancer risk. In 2014, ASCO made obesity and cancer one of its core initiatives in a formal position statement, and in 2019, the Society published results from a similar survey looking at current practice behaviors regarding exercise, diet, and weight management as part of oncology care.

In the 2020 survey, approximately half of respondents stated that they consumed two or fewer servings of fruits and vegetables per day (50.5%) and exercised two or fewer times per week (50.1%). Additionally, respondents whose oncology provider provided diet and/or exercise recommendations were more likely to report changes in these behaviors versus those whose oncology provider didn’t, with about 80% of those who received recommendations reporting changes versus approximately 70% who hadn’t received any.

Study authors recommend a multipronged approach aimed at enhancing communication between oncology providers and patients, which would provide a path for referrals to support lifestyle changes. These recommendations include:

  • Improving provider education about healthy lifestyle for patients with cancer
  • Developing tools to help facilitate conversations between patients and providers
  • Using quality metrics to assess the frequency and content of conversations regarding lifestyle during and after and after cancer treatment
  • Utilizing referral networks for nutrition and exercise programs

Overall, the data demonstrate the continued importance of oncology provider recommendations in supporting lifestyle change after cancer diagnosis as well as the need for additional strategies and stakeholders (such as third-party programs) to address lifestyle factors in oncology care.

Read the full article in the Cancer journal.

Read and share Cancer.Net resources about nutrition and exercise for people with cancer.

Bookmark ASCO in Action for updates on ASCO’s work on improving quality in oncology care, along with the latest cancer research and policy news.