Rural and Urban Differences in Vegetable and Fruit Consumption Among Older Cancer Survivors in the Deep South: An Exploratory Cross-Sectional Study

Academic Article


  • Background: Cancer survivors, especially those who are older, experience increased comorbidity and risk for secondary cancers. A varied dietary pattern rich in vegetables and fruits (V&F) is recommended to improve health. However, V&F intake can differ by rural vs urban status. Objective: Our objective was to assess the differences in V&F consumption among older cancer survivors residing in urban- and rural-designated areas, and to explore whether differences exist according to sex, race, and cancer type. Design: This was a cross-sectional secondary analysis. Participants/setting: Screening data from the Harvest for Health trial were obtained from October 2016 to November 2019 on 731 Medicare-eligible cancer survivors across Alabama. Main outcome measures: V&F consumption was measured by 2 items from the National Cancer Institute's dietary screener Eating at America's Table. Rural and urban residence was coded at the ZIP-code level using the US Department of Agriculture's Rural-Urban Commuting Area coding schema using 5 different classifications (A through E). Sex, race, and cancer type were dichotomized as male or female, non-Hispanic White or non-Hispanic Black, and gastrointestinal or other cancers, respectively. Statistical analyses: Kruskal-Wallis rank sum and post-hoc tests were performed to detect differences in V&F consumption (α < .05). Results: The study sample was largely female (66.2%) and non-Hispanic White (78.1%); mean age was 70 years and reported average V&F intake was 1.47 cups/d. V&F consumption of cancer survivors living in isolated, small, rural towns was roughly one-half that consumed by survivors living elsewhere; thus, statistically significant rural–urban differences were found in models that accounted specifically for this subgroup, that is, Rural-Urban Commuting Area categorizations A and E. V&F consumption also was significantly lower in non-Hispanic Black (1.32 ± 0.98 cups/d) than non-Hispanic White survivors (1.51 ± 1.10 cups/d) (P = .0456); however, no statistically significant differences were detected by sex and cancer type. Conclusions: Analyses that address the variability within rural-designated areas are important in future studies. Moreover, a greater understanding is needed of factors that adversely affect V&F consumption of those most vulnerable, that is, older, non-Hispanic Black cancer survivors, as well as those living in isolated, small, rural towns to best target future interventions. Trial registration: NCT02985411.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kaur H; Fernández JR; Locher JL; Demark-Wahnefried W
  • Start Page

  • 1717
  • End Page

  • 1724.e4
  • Volume

  • 122
  • Issue

  • 9