Data for the study came from people who participated from 1999 to 2010 in the nationally representative US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Researchers looked at dietary intake and quality in 1533 adult survivors of breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer. The patients were matched with regard to age, race, and ethnicity to 3075 people who did not have a history of cancer. The investigators evaluated dietary intake using 24-hour dietary recall interviews conducted in person and over the telephone by trained interviewers. Diet quality was assessed using the 2010 Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010), in which a higher score indicates better adherence to US dietary guidelines.
The majority of cancer survivors were women (66%) and non-Hispanic whites (83%). Results adjusted for age, sex, and race/ethnicity showed that cancer survivors had significantly lower-quality diets compared with participants who did not have a history of cancer (HEI-2010 total score: 47.2 ± 0.5 vs 48.3 ± 0.4, respectively; P = .03). Cancer survivors ate significantly more empty calories (P = .001) and less fiber (P = .02), which suggests that they got more of their calories from solid fats, alcohol, and added sugars.