In the study, researchers tracked the pre- and post-treatment diets and health outcomes of more than 400 cancer patients. Participants were followed for an average of 26 months after they were first diagnosed and treated for squamous-cell carcinoma of the head or neck; all were patients of the University of Michigan Head and Neck Specialized Program of Research Excellence. The study was published recently in the International Journal of Cancer.
Participants' typical intake of food, beverages and supplements was assessed for the year prior to diagnosis and for one year post-treatment using the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire. Patients who consumed the lowest amounts of simple carbohydrates - which included refined grains, desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages - consumed about 1.3 servings daily, compared with about 4.4 servings by patients who were considered high intake.
Patients who consumed the most total carbohydrates and sugars - in the forms of sucrose, fructose, lactose and maltose - in the year preceding cancer treatment were at greater risk of mortality from any cause during the follow-up period, Arthur said.
Among the study population, the most commonly diagnosed cancers were in the oral cavity and the oropharynx, which includes the tonsils, the base of the tongue and surrounding tissues. More than 69 percent of participants were diagnosed when the disease was at stage 3 or stage 4. Patients' average age at diagnosis was about 61.
During the follow-up period, more than 17 percent of patients experienced recurrence of their cancer, and 42 patients died from it. Another 70 participants died from other causes, according to the study.