The objective of this article was to investigate the relationship between nutrition and cancer, as it relates to the initiation, promotion, and treatment of tumor growth. English-language studies published in the last 25 years were retrieved using MEDLINE, bibliographies, and consultation with experts. MEDLINE search terms included "cancer", "malnutrition," and "nutritional support." In vitro and in vivo controlled studies addressing the impact of nutritional factors on cancer prevention and treatment were selected. Approximately 30% of cancers in the Western countries are diet-related. The presence of malignancy affects patients' nutritional status negatively, leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Standard nutritional support (both enteral and parenteral) is not always effective in significantly improving outcome in malnourished cancer patients, due to characteristic changes in host metabolism. Preliminary studies suggest that newer nutritional-pharmacologic agents may be beneficial in counteracting the derangement of host metabolism, and consequently in ameliorating cancer patients' nutritional status and outcome of malnourishment. This review suggests that dietary manipulations and nutritional-pharmacologic therapy might be highly effective adjuncts in controlling the symptoms of patients with neoplastic disease.
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