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Open Access Research article

Physical activity and diet behaviour in colorectal cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: associations with quality of life

Lynette E Stephenson1, D Gwyn Bebb3, Raylene A Reimer14 and S Nicole Culos-Reed123*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. NW, Calgary Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada

2 Department of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Holy Cross Site, 2202 2nd St. SW, Calgary, Alberta, T2S 3C1, Canada

3 Department of Oncology, Tom Baker Cancer Centre/Faculty of Medicine, 1331 29th St. NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N2, Canada

4 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Medicine, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

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BMC Gastroenterology 2009, 9:60  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-9-60

Published: 27 July 2009



The relationship between colorectal cancer (CRC) risk and physical activity and dietary habits has been well-established, but less is known about the relationship between these behaviours and quality of life (QOL) post-diagnosis. Moreover, it is unknown whether this relationship is consistent across cancer stage or treatment setting. Thus, the purpose of this study was to assess current diet and physical activity behaviour in CRC survivors receiving systemic chemotherapy, and to examine potential associations between these behaviours and quality of life. A secondary purpose was to examine the association between social support, diet, and physical activity behaviour in this population.


Using a cross-sectional survey, 67 CRC survivors currently receiving chemotherapy in Calgary, Alberta completed the survey package. Measures included demographic and medical data, physical activity levels, diet behaviour, QOL, and social support.


In a largely metastatic sample (63%), approximately half were meeting national dietary guidelines (58%), less were meeting national physical activity guidelines (26%), and a small number were meeting both (17%). However, only 12.3% (n = 8) reported completely sedentary behaviour, and 7 of these 8 participants were receiving metastatic treatment. Neither behaviour was significantly associated with QOL or perceived social support. Furthermore, there were no significant QOL differences between those treated with palliative intent or adjuvant therapy. Important group differences emerged between those meeting and not meeting the guidelines, and associations between QOL, age, BMI, and provisions of social support.


These findings provide insight into lifestyle behaviours of CRC survivors currently receiving systemic chemotherapy, and the differences in perceived QOL as affected by severity of disease and treatment setting. Prospective studies in a larger sample of CRC survivors on chemotherapy are needed to confirm lifestyle behaviour patterns and identify factors related to QOL that are unique to this population, especially during metastatic treatment.