Two of those had more teeth to them than their 2012 guidelines: 

  1. It is best to avoid alcohol completely; for those not avoiding alcohol altogether, they recommend limiting consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
  2. Reduce the amount of red and processed meats you eat. The ACS guidelines also emphasize decreasing the amount of processed foods you eat as well as increasing physical activity. 

Most of all, they stress how important it is to adopt healthy patterns of eating and moving, rather than singling out specific foods, diets or physical activities.

During the eight years between the 2012 and 2020 guidelines, respected cancer prevention research organizations such as the American Institute for Cancer Research, World Cancer Research Fund International and others have published evidence and guidelines that ACS used to update its recommendations. We are seeing an alignment in diet and physical activity guidelines across organizations. Our hope is this will reduce the confusion for those of you looking to put your money where your mouth is and where your feet trod, run, dance, or jump.

The ACS guidelines

American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention, 20201Rock CL, Thomson C et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2020;10.3322/caac.21591.

Recommendations for lifestyle changes

Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight throughout life.

Be physically active.

Follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages.

It is best not to drink alcohol.

Recommendation for community action

Public, private, and community organizations should work collaboratively at national, state, and local levels to develop, advocate for, and implement policy and environmental changes that increase access to affordable, nutritious foods; provide safe, enjoyable, and accessible opportunities for physical activity; and limit alcohol for all individuals.

I want to also say that a few decades ago, I was an active volunteer and board member of my local and state American Cancer Society. This many years later, I am glad to see this organization refresh and revise their lifestyle-related cancer-prevention guidelines. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, I was impressed with their outstanding educational programs and innovative cancer-prevention research projects. I was proud of them for putting out such practical, useful programs for the everyday folk who lived in small-town Virginia (where I live) and elsewhere.

I have to smile when I think back to teaching their healthy lifestyle program called “Taking Control.” Thirty-plus years before BCCTBeyond Conventional Cancer Therapies (predecessor website to CancerChoices)/CancerChoices listed our 7 Healing Practices, the American Cancer Society was emphasizing taking control of your health through diet, exercise, good sleep, sense in the sun, stress management, avoiding carcinogens, and finding enjoyment. It’s like life coming full circle when I realize that what the ACS was promoting then still makes sense today, with the added benefit of time and evidence.

The 7 Healing Practices include practical ways to put these and other healthy lifestyle guidelines into your anticancer action plan. Also see Healthy Habits for further practices.

Resources

Anticancer Lifestyle Program

From CancerChoices’ own Laura Pole and Nancy Hepp, shared with our colleagues at Anticancer Lifestyle Program

Vital to Your Healing: 6 Tips for Sharing Love and Support

References[+]

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About the Author

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years.

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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant