Body Weight

Having a healthy body weight is linked to lower risk of many types of cancer, fewer or less severe symptoms and treatment side effects, and in some cases better survival after diagnosis. Body weight is also an important body terrain factor—a condition that influences whether your body is more supportive or less supportive of cancer.

What do experts recommend?

Medical groups provide recommendations regarding body weight for people with cancer. Learn more about the meanings of recommendations: Integrative Oncology Programs and Expert Guidelines ›

American Cancer Society

Two guidelines present recommendations regarding cancer prevention and survivorship.

American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention ›
2020 clinical practice guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend keeping body weight within the healthy range and avoid weight gain in adult life.

American Cancer Society nutrition and physical activity guideline for cancer survivors ›
These 2022 guidelines recommend avoiding obesity.

2013 clinical practice guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians recommend adding high calorie and protein supplements (1.5 kcal/mL) as a nutritional adjunct to achieve weight stabilization to address weight loss (weak recommendation).

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Two guidelines provide recommendations regarding survivorship care and long-term effects.

Survivorship Care for Healthy Living Guidelines ›

These 2020 guidelines recommend achieving and maintaining a normal body weight.

Strategies to lose weight:

  • Check your weight every day.
  • Lose no more than two pounds a week if younger than 65 years of age. Lose no more than one pound a week if 65 years of age or older.
  • Don’t eat too many high-calorie foods, especially empty-calorie foods.
  • Control how much you eat by following plate or serving size standards.
  • Address physical, mental, and social reasons for being overweight.
  • See a registered dietician or join a weight management program.
  • Use community resources.
  • Don’t use weight loss supplements.

Strategies to gain weight:

  • Eat more often.
  • Eat food that is high in calories and nutrients.
  • Don’t drink while eating.
  • Address physical, mental, and social reasons of being underweight.
  • See a registered dietician.

Strategies to maintain weight:

  • Make maintaining normal body weight a goal.
  • Check your weight every week.
  • Don’t eat too many high-calorie foods, especially empty-calorie foods.
  • Control how much you eat by following plate or serving size standards.

Survivorship Care for Cancer-Related Late and Long-Term Effects ›

NCCN 2024 guidelines for patients recommend maintaining a normal body weight for hot flashes, and losing weight if overweight to improve sexual function in men or sleep difficulty (obstructive sleep apnea).

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Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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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, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant


Miki Scheidel

Co-Founder and Creative Director
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Miki Scheidel is Co-founder and creative director of CancerChoices. She led the effort to transform Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, the prior version of CancerChoices, to its current form. Miki and her family were deeply affected by her father’s transformative experience with integrative approaches to metastatic kidney cancer. That experience inspires her work as president of the Scheidel Foundation and as volunteer staff at CancerChoices. She previously worked with the US Agency for International Development and Family Health International among other roles. She received her graduate degree in international development from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College.

Miki Scheidel Co-Founder and Creative Director

Last update: May 21, 2024

Last full literature review: August 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocialtherapy, and acupuncture therapies and self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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