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Cut Your Cancer Risk

While it is true that the development of cancer is related to genetic material, your cancer risk can be lowered through healthy eating. Find out what to consume and what to cut back on to diminish your risk.

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Eat a Rainbow

Eat a Rainbow

We really mean a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Don’t limit yourself to the same old apples, oranges, and bananas. Most studies on diet and cancer have definitively linked higher fruit and vegetable consumption to lower risks of an array of cancers, including those of the breast, prostate, lung, mouth, esophagus, stomach, and colon. Johns Hopkins University researchers found that when they studied more than 6,000 adults, those who ate about five servings of produce a day lowered their risk of dying of cancer by 35 per cent compared to those who ate less than one serving a day.

Scientists are still working out the mystery of which compounds are most effective against various cancers. What’s clear is that these nutrients work best when they work together, so eating that rainbow we mentioned is far more effective than relying on supplements.

Aim for: At the very least, get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, though 7 to 10 is highly recommended.

Have a Whole Lot of Whole Grains

There are more reasons than you can shake a stalk at to eat more whole grains. You may not think of them as a source of antioxidants, but they are. And they contain plant estrogens called lignans, which help lower estrogen levels and encourage cancer cells to self-destruct.

Aim for: Research suggests that eating at least four servings of whole grains a week lowers overall cancer risk by 34 per cent. However, to meet recommended daily fiber goals and get the protective compounds linked to overall health, it’s best to eat at least three servings every day.

Water Yourself Frequently

Drinking water and non-caffeinated beverages (skim milk, herbal tea) may help protect against bladder cancer because fluids dilute any potential carcinogens lurking in urine. Plus, the more trips you take to the loo, the less time carcinogens are in contact with the bladder lining.

Aim for: Drink enough fluids throughout the day so that your urine is very pale.

Feast on Fatty Fish

If you’re fishing for anticancer foods, you might try snaring a salmon (good luck with that, unless you’re a bear). This famously heart-healthy fish, as well as other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as albacore tuna, sardines, mackerel, and rainbow trout, may also help keep cancer at bay. Some studies already show an association between fatty fish consumption and lower risk of breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancers.

Aim for: Canada’s Food Guide recommends at least two Food Guide Servings (one serving equals 75 grams of fish each week).

Grab a Green Tea

If you want to avoid cancer, it may be time you acquired a taste for green tea, a potent source of cancer-fighting antioxidants that can protect against the DNA damage that causes cells to turn cancerous. In cell studies, one of the most important of these antioxidants, called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), blocked an enzyme that cancer cells need to grow.

Aim for: To get significant anticancer benefits, you’ll probably need to drink four cups a day.

Go for Garlic

Whether or not garlic wards off vampires, it does seem to help ward off cancer, especially stomach and colorectal cancer. Chalk it up to garlic’s powerful sulfur compounds, which flush out carcinogens before they can damage cell DNA and force cancer cells that do develop to self-destruct.

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Off the Menu

Off the Menu

Stop Eating Saturated Fats

Already linked with many other diseases, like heart disease, saturated fat also promotes the kind of inflammation that damages cell DNA and permits tumors to build the blood vessel network that allows them to grow and spread. Saturated fat has been linked with cancers of the stomach, esophagus, breast, and colon.

Avoid Red Meats and Processed Meats

Red and processed meats are associated with a host of cancers, no doubt largely because these meats are sources of saturated fat. It’s also because grilling or frying meat creates carcinogens that have been linked with breast, colon, and other cancers. Data from the largest study to look at the connection between diet and cancer risk showed that eating even 150 grams of red or processed meat a day increases the risk of colon and rectal cancers by 35 per cent.

No More Salty Snacks

Salt appears to damage the stomach lining, making it more vulnerable to cancer development, especially among people infected with H. pylori. Studies in Eastern Europe and Japan point to a link between high consumption of salted or smoked fish and meats and an increased gastric cancer risk of between 70 and 200 per cent. Reducing your salt intake along with increasing your fruits and vegetables can prevent as many as 75 per cent of gastric cancer cases.

Cut Down on Alcohol

Alcohol raises the risk of cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, and liver. As alcohol is metabolized, free radicals and other compounds that damage DNA are produced. Too much alcohol can also raise estrogen levels and lower folate levels, which can lead to DNA damage and disrupt the body’s ability to repair it.