Did you know that one-third of cancer deaths are caused by preventable nutrition and lifestyle factors such as obesity, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and heavy alcohol consumption?
Only about 5% to 10% of cancers are strongly hereditary and most cancers result from the accumulation of toxins and damage to cells during a person’s lifetime.
The following are the nutrition and lifestyle related risk factors and their cancer risk:
● Tobacco – Gastrointestinal, lung, pancreatic, cervical and renal cancer
● Alcohol – Gastrointestinal, liver cancer
● Obesity – Pancreatic, colorectal, prostate, gynecologic, renal, biliary, gallbladder cancer
● Low fruit / vegetable intake – Most cancers
● High Fat intake – Prostate cancer, lymphoma
● High processed meat intake – Colorectal cancer
These lifestyle related risk factors may be reduced by following a healthy diet and lifestyle – thus lowering your risk of developing cancer in the future. The following are some nutrition tips for cancer prevention:
1. Maintain a healthy body weight through a balanced and varied diet and regular physical activity. By having a balanced diet consisting of fruits and vegetables and healthy whole food sources of carbohydrates such as brown rice and sources of protein from lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and legumes – you will be able to satisfy your daily needs for nutrients and fiber which are needed by the body for healing and maintenance. Exercise of at least 150 minutes a week has also been found to be beneficial in terms of lowering cancer risk.
2. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke or stop smoking. Chronic smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke can increase your risk of developing lung cancer by 50 times! Tobacco contains carcinogenic substances from its combustion which damages lung cells and other cells in the body which predisposes an individual to develop mutations that may give rise to cancer cells. When cigarette smoking is stopped early, early damages may still be reversed through a healthy lifestyle.
3. Limit consumption of processed meats, charred or meats cooked over an open flame. Processed meats contain nitrates that are converted to toxic substances inside the body. Studies have shown that consumption of at least 50 g of processed meats which is equivalent to four strips of bacon or 1 hotdog per day, increases the risk for colon cancer by 18 %.
Charred or charcoal grilling of meats can cause formation of toxic substances which are found to cause mutations and are considered carcinogenic. Meats that contain a lot of fat such as beef and pork produce more toxic substances when cooked over an open flame as compared to chicken or fish. Thus, avoid or limit consumption of these food items to minimize intake of carcinogenic substances from food.
4. Limit consumption of alcohol. Excessive and chronic alcohol consumption is related to an increased risk for gastrointestinal and liver cancers. Thus, limit intake to 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men.
5. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants and cancer-fighting bioactive compounds. Certain foods contain cancer-fighting bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, resveratrol and isoflavones which are found to have some cancer fighting benefit in terms of maintaining healthy cells, preventing cell damage or mutations or in supporting the body’s immune system in fighting cancer cells. Example of these food items are commonly fruits and vegetables such as:
● Cruciferous vegetables: Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower
● Dark Leafy Greens
● Whole Grains
In general, having a healthy diet and lifestyle, limiting exposure to radiation and toxic substances and vaccination against vaccine-preventable cancers such as Viral Hepatitis through Hep B vaccination and Cervical cancer through HPV vaccination can help lower your risk of developing cancer.
So start making healthy eating and living a habit.