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Childhood Cancer Survivors' Perceived Barriers to Improving Exercise and Dietary Behaviors

Whitney D. Arroyave
Elizabeth C. Clipp
Paige E. Miller
Lee W. Jones
Dianne S. Ward
Melanie J. Bonner
Philip M. Rosoff
Denise Clutter Snyder
Wendy Demark-Wahnefried
ONF 2008, 35(1), 121-130 DOI: 10.1188/08.ONF.121-130

Purpose/Objectives: To determine childhood cancer survivors' barriers to increasing exercise and consuming less fat and more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods.

Design: Mailed survey.

Setting: Cases from a comprehensive cancer center.

Sample: Convenience sample of 144 childhood cancer survivors aged 13-35 years identified through previous research. Surveys were returned by 118 participants (82% response rate).

Methods: Descriptive statistics with chi-square tests were performed between subgroups defined by age (< 18 years and ≤ 18 years) and diagnosis (leukemia, lymphoma, and central nervous system cancers).

Main Research Variables: Barriers to exercise, consuming less fat, and eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods.

Findings: Proportionately more childhood cancer survivors reported barriers to exercise and following a low-fat diet than to consuming more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods. Primary barriers to exercise included being too tired (57%), being too busy (53%), and not belonging to a gym (48%), whereas barriers for restricting high-fat foods were commercials that make high-fat foods look so appealing (58%) and having friends who eat a lot of high-fat foods (50%). Difficulty associated with ordering healthy foods when dining out also was a leading barrier to following a low-fat diet (50%), as well as eating more whole grains (31%), fruits and vegetables (30%), and calcium-rich foods (15%).

Conclusions: Childhood cancer survivors report several barriers to exercise and consuming a low-fat diet with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods.

Implications for Nursing: This study's findings may be helpful to nurses, health educators, and allied health professionals in developing effective interventions that promote healthful lifestyle change among childhood cancer survivors.

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