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May 28, 2014 | 3 minute read

Research for Cancer Survivors

This Sunday is National Cancer Survivor’s Day and today, there are more survivors in the United States than ever before. Advances in treatments and detection have led to an estimated 13 million US cancer survivors, with that number expected to swell to 18 million by 2022.

The positive increases in survivors has led to a growing body of science focusing on survivor health and quality of life. Here’s a brief summary of recent news.

Childhood cancer survivorship growing and at higher risk.

One of the most dramatic and positive advances in cancer is the growing numbers of survivors of children diagnosed with cancer. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood cancer and with today’s treatment, the survival rate for a person age 19 or under diagnosed with ALL is approximately 80 percent.

Childhood cancer is relatively rare – representing less than 1 percent of all new cancer diagnoses. As they age, this relatively young population face increased risk for secondary cancers, as well as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health disorders. A study published last year in JAMA found that about 80% of childhood cancer survivors had heart disorder or another serious disabling health condition by age 45. Risks increased with age.

Healthy diet, physical activity, and weight control may help many childhood survivors increase their risk for longer and healthier live.

Obesity links to earlier mortality among survivors.

Women who are obese both before and after a breast cancer diagnosis are at greater risk of an earlier death from cancer or other causes, compared to women at a healthy weight. The latest finding in this field comes from a review of the research published last month in the Annals of Oncology.

The analysis found that women who are obese and develop breast cancer are 41 percent more likely to die earlier than women who are in the normal weight range before diagnosis. The increased risk of earlier death was seen for both pre- and post-menopausal cancers. The link of earlier mortality was present among women who were obese 12 months after diagnosis, compared to those at a normal weight.

Read more from the lead author of this study.

Different activities can help.

Evidence is now clear that, like the general population, being active can improve physical health and well-being. Guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine encourage cancer survivors to avoid inactivity and aim to get the same amount of exercise the government recommends for the general populations: 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Survivors should also do muscle training and flexibility exercises weekly.

Scientists are also looking at various types of activities, such as yoga. A randomized controlled study published last month found that when 200 breast cancer survivors practiiced yoga for three months after treatment, they had less fatigue and signs of inflammation than the comparison group. That study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncologyis one of many studies deeping an understanding of activity’s health benefits for survivors.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Paula W. Yoon et al. “Potentially Preventable Deaths from the Five Leading Causes of Death — United States, 2008–2010.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. May 2, 2014 / 63(17);369-374.

Lee IM. “Physical activity and survival after cancer diagnosis in men.” J Phys Act Health. 2014 Jan;11(1):85-90.

J Clin Oncol. “Yoga’s impact on inflammation, mood, and fatigue in breast cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial.” 2014 Apr 1;32(10):1040-9.

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