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Impact of dietary patterns and the main food groups on mortality and recurrence in cancer survivors: a systematic review of current epidemiological literature
  1. Sylvia H J Jochems1,2,
  2. Frits H M Van Osch1,2,
  3. Richard T Bryan1,
  4. Anke Wesselius2,
  5. Frederik J van Schooten2,
  6. Kar Keung Cheng3,
  7. Maurice P Zeegers2,4
  1. 1 Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  3. 3 Institute of Applied Health Research, Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4 CAPHRI School for Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Sylvia H J Jochems; s.jochems{at}


Objective To determine whether there is an association between dietary patterns/indices and foods from the main food groups (highest vs lowest intakes) prior to or after cancer diagnosis and mortality and cancer recurrence in cancer survivors.

Participants Survivors of common cancers with a 10-year survival rate of ≥50%: bladder, bowel, breast, cervical, kidney, laryngeal, prostate, testicular, uterine cancer, malignant melanoma and (non-)Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Outcome measures Mortality (overall, cancer-specific, from other causes) and cancer recurrence.

Information sources PubMed, Embase and the Cochrane Library were searched from inception to April 2017. Additional studies were identified by searching reference lists. Two authors independently screened titles and abstracts, assessed study quality and extracted the data.

Results A total of 38 studies were included. The risk of bias was rated low for the included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and moderate for the cohort studies. The quality of evidence was assessed with the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE) approach and was rated moderate (RCTs), and (very)low (cohort studies). Reducing the amount of fat after diagnosis appears to decrease the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Adherence to a high-quality diet and prudent diet after diagnosis appears to decrease the risk of death from other causes (and overall mortality for high-quality diet) in breast cancer survivors. Adherence to a Western diet, before and after diagnosis, appears to increase the risk of overall mortality and death from other causes among breast cancer survivors. Evidence from studies among other cancer survivors was too limited or could not be identified.

Conclusion For many cancer survivors, there is little evidence to date to indicate that particular dietary behaviours influence outcomes with regard to recurrence and mortality. Notwithstanding, limited evidence suggests that a low-fat diet, a high-quality diet and a prudent diet are beneficial for breast cancer survivors, while a Western diet is detrimental for breast cancer survivors.

  • cancer survivors
  • mortality
  • cancer recurrence
  • food
  • dietary pattern
  • diet

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  • Contributors SHJJ drafted the manuscript and worked on the conception, design and interpretation of data. SHJJ and FHMvO selected articles, screened titles and abstracts, assessed study quality and extracted data. SHJJ, FHMvO, RTB and MPZ were involved in the interpretation and discussion of the results and critically revised the systematic review for important intellectual content. All authors approved the final version of the systematic review. SHJJ is the guarantor.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data available.

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