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Mesothelioma Survivors May Not Have Enough Knowledge of Nutrition

New evidence suggests that too many long-term survivors of malignant mesothelioma and other cancers may not be following the dietary guidelines that could keep them healthy for a lifetime.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins and Drexel University recently analyzed the diets of 53 adult cancer survivors and found that many are not adequately prepared to follow a cancer-preventing diet indefinitely.

Mesothelioma Survival and DIet

Multiple studies point to the value of a diet high in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables as a way to prevent cancer or to support the body during aggressive treatment for a cancer such as malignant mesothelioma.  

The lifestyles of long-term survivors like Paul Kraus, the Australian man who recently celebrated 20 years of survival from peritoneal mesothelioma, offer more evidence for a healthful diet as a way to remain vibrant and cancer-free.

Kraus, who wrote the best-selling mesothelioma book “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers”,  not only consumes mounds of produce and supplements each day, but also exercises and meditates regularly.

Cancer Survivors Unprepared for Better Diets

But new research suggests that other mesothelioma patients and survivors may not be following Kraus’ example. The new study published in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies asked survivors of three cancers (breast, prostate, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) to track their diets over three 24-hour periods.

“Results were used to classify respondents on 2 metrics of healthful eating,” explains study author Ann Carroll Klassen, PhD, of the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The two metrics were the Healthy Eating Index 2010, a measure of dietary quality developed by the US government, and a 9-item index based on current dietary recommendations.

Each cancer survivor’s diet journal was then used to initiate a discussion of their dietary behaviors, healthy eating, and the importance of diet in cancer prevention and survivorship. The researchers were not encouraged by what they learned.

“Most survivors had received little nutrition counseling as part of their cancer care, highlighting the importance of holistic, household-oriented nutrition education for maintaining health among long-term cancer survivors,” concludes Dr. Klassen.

Who Are the Healthiest Cancer Survivors?

According the the researchers, the cancer survivors following the most healthful diets tended to be women of normal weight who had never smoked and had more socioeconomic resources.

Cancer survivors who lived in homes where other family members were also involved in the dietary decision-making tended to eat better than those who were on their own. Mesothelioma patient Paul Kraus’ own story bears that out; he and his wife learned about and made significant dietary changes together.

Malignant mesothelioma is an especially aggressive cancer that affects as many as 2,500 new patients in the US annually. Most of these patients are people who had been exposed to asbestos either in their workplace or their environment.


Klassen, AC, et al, “We’re Just Not Prepared for Eating Over Our Whole Life”: A Mixed Methods Approach to Understanding Dietary Behaviors Among Longer Term Cancer Survivors, Journal of Integrative Therapies, October 3, 2017

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