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Healthy habits may help childhood cancer survivors avoid chronic ills

Updated: Jul 28, 2014 02:13 PM
© Hemera / Thinkstock © Hemera / Thinkstock

MONDAY, July 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Following a healthy lifestyle may help childhood cancer survivors reduce their risk for chronic health issues, a new study indicates.

Researchers suggested that children with cancer and adults who survived childhood cancer should be educated about how their diet and certain behaviors could affect their health in the future.

"These findings are important because they indicate that adults who were treated for cancer as children have the opportunity to influence their own health outcomes," said one of the researchers, Kirsten Ness of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

Adults who had cancer when they were children are at greater risk for metabolic syndrome -- a group of risk factors that increases the likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other health problems.

People with metabolic syndrome have some combination of the following: high blood pressure; abnormal cholesterol; high blood sugar levels; and increased body fat.

The new study, published online July 28 in Cancer, found that maintaining a healthy lifestyle may lower childhood cancer survivors' risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

For the study, the researchers analyzed information on nearly 1,600 childhood cancer survivors who were cancer-free for at least 10 years.

"This study is unique because of the large, well characterized population of survivors of various diagnoses that we studied, many years from their original cancer diagnosis," said Ness in a journal news release.

Participants were given questionnaires and tests to determine whether or not they followed the seven healthy lifestyle recommendations issued by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research. In order to be considered compliant, they had to follow at least four of the recommendations.

Overall, the study revealed that nearly 32 percent of the participants had metabolic syndrome. Of those who followed the healthy lifestyle recommendations, 27 percent had the condition.

Men and women who didn't follow the recommendations were more than twice as likely to have metabolic syndrome as those who did follow the guidelines, the investigators found.

Those healthy lifestyle recommendations include:

    - No smoking
    - Maintaining a healthy body weight
    - Getting regular physical activity
    - Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
    - Limiting intake of sugar, alcohol, red meat and salt

    More information

    The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about metabolic syndrome.

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