Cancer survivors tend to have worse dietary quality than the general population, according to a study published in Cancer.

Fang Fang Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., from Tufts University in Boston, and colleagues compared dietary intake and quality in 1,533 adult cancer survivors who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2010 and 3,075 age-, sex-, and race/ethnicity-matched individuals with no history of cancer. Diet quality was assessed using the 2010 Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010).

The researchers found that the mean HEI-2010 total score was 47.2±0.5 and 48.3±0.4 in the cancer survivor and noncancer groups, respectively.

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Cancer survivors had a significantly lower score for empty calories than the noncancer group, which correlated with worse adherence to dietary intake of calories from solid fats, alcohol, and added sugars.

Compared with the noncancer group, cancer survivors also had a significantly lower dietary intake of fiber. Survivors’ mean dietary intake of vitamin D, vitamin E, potassium, fiber, and calcium was 31, 47, 55, 60, and 73 percent, respectively, of the recommended intake; saturated fat and sodium mean dietary intake was 112 and 133 percent, respectively, of the recommended intake.

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“Cancer survivors had poor adherence to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and their intake patterns were worse than those in the general population for empty calories and fiber,” the authors write.


  1. Zhang FF, Liu S, John EM, et al. Diet quality of cancer survivors and noncancer individuals: Results from a national survey. Cancer. [published online ahead of print October 13, 2015]. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.29488