Intermittent fasting in the prevention and treatment of cancer

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66 Scopus citations


Chronic caloric restriction (CR) has powerful anticarcinogenic actions in both preclinical and clinical studies but may be difficult to sustain. As an alternative to CR, there has been growing interest in intermittent fasting (IF) in both the scientific and lay community as a result of promising study results, mainly in experimental animal models. According to a survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, IF has become the most popular diet in the last year, and patients with cancer are seeking advice from oncologists about its beneficial effects for cancer prevention and treatment. However, as discussed in this review, results from IF studies in rodents are controversial and suggest potential detrimental effects in certain oncologic conditions. The effects of IF on human cancer incidence and prognosis remain unknown because of a lack of high-quality randomized clinical trials. Preliminary studies suggest that prolonged fasting in some patients who have cancer is safe and potentially capable of decreasing chemotherapy-related toxicity and tumor growth. However, because additional trials are needed to elucidate the risks and benefits of fasting for patients with cancer, the authors would not currently recommend patients undergoing active cancer treatment partake in IF outside the context of a clinical trial. IF may be considered in adults seeking cancer-prevention benefits through means of weight management, but whether IF itself affects cancer-related metabolic and molecular pathways remains unanswered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-546
Number of pages20
JournalCA Cancer Journal for Clinicians
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • caloric restriction
  • fasting
  • neoplasms
  • obesity


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