Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide and according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there will be nearly 1,735,350 new diagnoses in the U.S. alone and 609,640 individuals may die from it.
Though cancer may be one of the major causes of death, experts believe that nearly 30 to 50 percent of all types of cancers may be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle — a balanced diet, regular exercise and mindful practices to reduce stress.
Best and Worst Foods for Cancer
Experts who study different types of cancer have noticed that certain foods might increase the risk of developing cancer while other foods can reduce the risk. Foods with certain nutrients might also help with coping with the aftermath of various treatments too.
One of the major findings was that vegans and vegetarians had a considerably lower risk of developing or succumbing to any type of cancer — more precisely, 15 percent and 8 percent lower risk, respectively.
Nutritionists and cancer experts believe that this is because individuals following either diet have an abundant intake of fresh produce and a relatively low intake of processed foods or meats that may increase the risk of cancer.
List of foods that may increase the risk of cancer:
A study that followed 4,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer found that the intake of whole fat dairy sped up the progression of the disease and even increased the risk of death. Some studies have also found that a more than average consumption of dairy may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Though the link is still being studied, it is believed that this increase in risk may be caused by the calcium, estrogen and other components present in the milk obtained from pregnant cows.
Various studies have found a link between the regular consumption of processed meats like hot dogs, salami, bacon and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. It has been noted that individuals consuming very high quantities of these meats might have a 20 to 50 percent increased risk while those who consumed 50 grams of processed meats a day had an 18 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer.
Foods cooked at high temperatures
Cooking techniques like grilling, deep frying and barbecuing may be harmful because it could cause the build-up of carcinogens like heterocyclic amines (HA) and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which can cause or increase inflammation. It is recommended to not char or burn foods high in fat and protein like red meat, cream cheese, oils, nuts and some types of cheese.
Note: It is recommended to use techniques like steaming or boiling that need lower temperatures.
Foods high in sugars and simple carbohydrates
Researchers have found that a regular intake of foods that cause a fluctuation in blood sugar levels might increase the risk of certain cancers like that of the breast and stomach. A study that observed more than 47,000 individuals noticed that those consuming foods high in simple carbs doubled their risk of succumbing to colon cancer when compared to those who ate minimal simple carbs. Having diabetes also increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 122 percent and thus it is recommended to stay away from processed foods that tend to contain high amounts of sugar.
While these groups of foods might increase the risk of certain cancers, there are others that can reduce the risk of developing cancer, including:
- Cauliflower, carrots and tomatoes
- Citrus and berries
- Beans and legumes
- Olive oil
While healthy lifestyle habits might reduce the risk of certain cancers, it is recommended to understand your personal risks from your doctor and get any symptoms checked out before it is too late.
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Cancer Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics
Brown, M. J. (2018, October 07). Cancer and Diet 101: How What You Eat Can Influence Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cancer-and-diet