AICR Recommendations & Cancer Survival

The study of how diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviors affect cancer patients and survivors is relatively new, and there are fewer papers investigating the impact of AICR’s recommendations on cancer survivorship. The research related to AICR’s recommendations and cancer survivorship suggests that adherence to the recommendations can help in several ways. This field is a fast-growing area of study as the research builds and survivorship increases; bookmark this page for the latest studies.  

Much of this research relates to breast and colon cancer, two common cancers where improved treatment and early detection have led to high survivor rates.

Longer Survival

  • A study focused on cancer survivors among older women found a link between adhering to AICR’s recommendations and longer life, with sticking to the physical activity recommendation having the strongest association. This study focused on survivors who had an average age of 79 in a 2004 survey. The 2,017 cancer survivors included in the study were diagnosed at some point between 1986 and 2002 and were followed for mortality through the end of 2009.

Women who most adhered to AICR’s recommendations had a 33 percent lower risk of dying from any cause during the course of the study period. Those who met the activity recommendation had a lower risk of dying overall, as well as from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Following the dietary recommendations also linked to lower risk of dying but interestingly, the body weight recommendation was associated with higher all-cause mortality.


Health-Related Quality of Life

  • A 2018 study investigating the impact of following AICR’s recommendations among Chinese patients after their breast cancer diagnosis found that increasing adherence linked to higher scores of quality of life and physical functioning. Increased adherence also linked to lower self-reports of fatigue, vomiting and pain. The study included 1,462 Chinese women who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and assessments were taken shortly after diagnosis and an 18-month follow-up after diagnosis.


Colorectal cancer survivors who most adhered to AICR’s recommendation reported better overall physical, social and quality of life functions along with less fatigue compared to those who least followed the recommendations, according to a study that included 1,100 colorectal cancer survivors from the Netherlands. Published in Supportive Care in Cancer, this 2019 study used self-reported data to score survivors’ adherence to eight AICR recommendations. The survivors completed online questionnaires about their lifestyle habits and health an average of eight years after diagnosis. Most were over 65 years old. Authors split the survivors into three groups based on scores of how much they reported meeting the recommendations.

Those in the highest group – who most adhered to AICR’s recommendations – linked to better physical, cognitive and social functioning compared to those who least met the recommendations. Survivors with the highest scores also reported less fatigue. The differences were modest but clinically relevant, the paper reports. When evaluating diet, physical activity and BMI separately, it appeared that physical activity was a key component of the recommendations that contributed to the improved health effects.


High blood sugar and excess body fat around the waist are two issues related to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some research suggests it also increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer and worse outcomes among survivors. Understanding how AICR recommendations connect to metabolic syndrome among breast cancer survivors was the goal of a study published in Cancer Therapy and Prevention.

The study included approximately 2,000 early-stage breast cancer survivors ages 35 to 70. The women completed questionnaires about their diet and physical activity from the previous day, along with providing a blood sample. The authors focused on five recommendations – they did not use the recommendation of staying a healthy weight because excess abdominal fat is one of the conditions of metabolic syndrome. Overall, the risk of metabolic syndrome decreased as meeting more recommendations increased. Women who met all five recommendations had a 57 percent lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome compared to those who met none or one. The authors found the decreased risk of metabolic syndrome was largely due to meeting the recommendations on being physically active and consuming more plant foods.


*In 2018 AICR updated our recommendations; meaning the majority of published papers used the 2007 Cancer Prevention Recommendations.