Cancer Survivors Tend to Overestimate How Healthy They Eat, Study Finds

George Mason University researchers find that cancer survivors tend to overestimate their intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


To conduct this study, researchers analyzed data on over 2,300 cancer survivors from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2005-2014 on 2,361 and compared them to a group of 23,114 participants who never had cancer. Subsequently, they assessed NHANES data along with with participants’ scores on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) 2010, which measures adherence to dietary recommendations.

According to the results, cancer survivors’ diet quality has not improved over the past 10 years. Moreover, the researchers observed that cancer survivors’ diets were generally poor as measured by the HEI, although healthier than the diets reported by the general population. Furthermore, the results showed that older participants, those with higher incomes or levels of education, and Hispanic participants were more likely to overestimate their diet quality. Cancer survivors who overrated their diet quality also had poorer diets overall than those who under-rated their diet quality.

“Our study is an important step in the fight against cancer,” said Dr. Hong Xue, lead researcher in a press release. “Now that we know the difference in perceived and actual diet quality among survivors, we can design tailored interventions to improve diets in this population. We know from earlier studies that this can reduce the risk of cancer relapse and improve long-term outcomes.”