Scottish Cancer Prevention Network

Stacking the Odds Against Recurrence


Jan 13

Whilst there is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that diet, activity and other lifestyle factors might influence a range of morbidities, well-being and recurrence in colorectal cancer (CRC) survivors, little is known about patient beliefs in this arena. With support from Bowel Cancer UK the authors undertook six focus groups in community locations in the UK to explore perceived patient needs and beliefs about the role of lifestyle.


The findings suggest that many CRC survivors actively sought lifestyle advice but experienced confusion, mixed messages, culturally inappropriate guidance and uncertainty about evidence of benefit. There was scepticism over the role of diet and physical activity as causes of cancer, in part because people believed their lifestyles had been healthy prior to diagnosis. The concept of changing lifestyle to “stack the odds in their favour” (against recurrence) appeared a more realistic message. CRC survivors who had made or maintained dietary changes highlighted the importance of these contributing to wellbeing and achieving a sense of control in their life.


The authors conclude that a dogmatic approach to lifestyle change may lead to perceptions of victim blaming and stigmatisation. Personalised guidance on lifestyle choices which are evidence informed appeared to be a desirable part of care planning and should be built in to survivorship programmes.

Anderson AS, Steele R, Coyle J (2013) Lifestyle issues for colorectal cancer survivors – perceived needs, beliefs and opportunities. Support Cancer Care 21:35-42