Recently, scientists went back to analyze how patients’ diets and activity levels while undergoing chemotherapy may affect their outcome in related to colon cancer recurrence.
This data was based off of surveys that the patient’s completed while undergoing trials for chemotherapy options of stage III colon cancer. In these post-trial analyses, they found that patients who ate tree nuts at least twice a week (like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and pecans) had a much lower risk of cancer recurrence (42%) than those that did not. Similarly, patients the adhered to nutritional and physical activity guidelines also had about a 40% lower risk of recurrence.
These studies do not prove causation—that is to say, they did not prove that tree nuts cause lower cancer recurrence; this was an association study that showed that eating tree nuts and keeping an active lifestyle were associated (for some reason) with better cancer survival. One oncologist, Manish Shah MD at Cornell summarized the findings, “The key thing for patients is to realize that what they do after their colon cancer diagnosis can have important effects on the risk of recurrence. There is a lot about disease biology that we don’t yet understand, but the data are adding up in support of a healthy lifestyle—being active, having a balanced diet—as likely to benefit patients. The downside to this approach is low and the upside is significant”. It is important to remember that these studies took place alongside standard cancer care and should not be seen as a substitute for standard cancer care that has proven survival benefit.