Why is protein important for cancer patients?

Why is protein important for cancer patients?

Protein plays a crucial role in the health and recovery of cancer patients. It impacts various aspects of treatment, recovery, and overall well-being. 

Here are 5 reasons why protein is important for cancer patients:

1. Supporting muscle mass

Cancer and its treatments often lead to muscle wasting, a condition known as cachexia

Adequate protein intake can help to prevent muscle loss and ensure that patients can continue to perform necessary physical functions and daily activities.

2. Repairs body tissues

Protein is vital for the repair and regeneration of body tissues. The repair process is important whenever muscles and body tissues experience any type of strain. Treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy can all cause damage to healthy cells. 

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) highlights that protein helps in the healing process, reducing recovery time and improving the efficacy of treatments. By supporting cellular repair, protein intake can aid in the overall recovery process for cancer patients.

3. Immune system support

A robust immune system is crucial for cancer patients who may become more susceptible to other illnesses.

Protein is necessary for the production of antibodies and immune cells, which enhance the body's ability to fight infections and cope with the side effects of treatment. 

A strong immune system can significantly impact a patient's ability to withstand rigorous treatment plans.

4. Managing side effects of treatment

Cancer treatments often cause side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, and taste changes, making it challenging to maintain proper nutrition. 

According to the NHS, high-protein foods can help manage weight and prevent malnutrition. 

Strategies such as consuming small, frequent meals and incorporating protein supplements can be beneficial. 

These approaches can help patients maintain their nutritional status despite the adverse effects of treatment.

5. Improving quality of life

Adequate protein intake can significantly improve a cancer patient's overall well-being. It contributes to energy levels and general health, contributing to a better quality of life. 


For cancer patients, protein is indispensable. It supports muscle mass, aids in tissue repair, bolsters the immune system, helps manage treatment side effects, and improves overall quality of life. 

Ensuring adequate protein intake should be a key component of a comprehensive care plan for individuals battling cancer.


Cancer Research UK. (n.d.). Diet and cancer. Cancer Research UK

British Dietetic Association (BDA). (n.d.). Food Facts Sheet: Nutrition and Cancer. BDA

Macmillan Cancer Support. (n.d.). The building blocks of your body. Macmillan Cancer Support

NHS. (n.d.). Eating well during cancer treatment. NHS