Multiple Myeloma

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The Role of Diet and Exercise in Cancer Risk

Dr. Sagar Lonial Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University

An important question for patients with multiple myeloma or any cancer is the role of diet and exercise in cancer risk. On the question of diet, studies of human populations “have not yet shown definitively that any dietary component causes or protects against cancer.” 

There is some evidence of a dietary link with cancer in a few areas including:

  • Processed meats. Dr. Edward Giovannucci of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health called the evidence here “consistent”  for an increased colon cancer risk
  • Regular or heavy alcohol consumption Is associated with increased risk of a number of cancers

But the National Cancer Institute finds insufficient evidence of the cancer risk from for: acrylamide, artificial sweeteners, charred meat, or fluoride in water. Some have suggested that sugar may be linked to cancer.

Although there are so many rumors that suggest that  sugar and carbohydrates help cancer cells grow in your body, Dr. Sagar Lonial, Chief Medical Officer at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, advises to exercise extreme caution when hearing them. “I wish that a lot of those rumors and myths were held up to the same level of scientific rigor that I’m asked to provide when I recommend a treatment for patients. Most of those concepts about sugar is bad, sugar feeds the cancer…there’s just no data for that.”  (For more on sugar SurvivorNet has this video.) Thus, instead of adhering to a strict, specific diet, patients should simply try to exercise regularly and aim to eat a healthy diet.

Unintended weight loss, however, gives a sense of how much of a toll the body is taking from the cancer. When a patient first visits the oncologist with unintended weight loss, it can be a sign that the cancer is having a large negative effect on the body. Thus, maintaining weight throughout treatment, although a challenge, is important.  Dr. Lonial says exercise is important. “What I tell patients is the stronger and fitter you are going into treatment, the stronger and fitter you’re gonna come out on the back end.”

So the role of diet and exercise in cancer risk gets a lot of attention, what is more important to the patient with multiple myeloma is their a role in improving their chances for a better outcome.

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Dr. Sagar Lonial is the Chief Medical Officer at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Read More