Preventing Cancer with Healthy Eating?
It is estimated that between 20% and 60% of cancer deaths are related to dietary factors. In other words, much of cancer may be preventable by altering your diet. Please take a look at our recommendations for healthy eating (but this information is not a replacement for medical advice from your Doctor):
Eat more fruit and vegetables. Eating five or more servings a day of a variety of fruit and vegetables can reduce your cancer risk by as much as 20 percent. Tomatoes are especially good – even in the form of tomato ketchup, which has a high concentration of lycopene (a powerful cancer fighting antioxidant). Other great foods for preventing cancer are detailed in the supplements section below.
Include more plant-based foods. Include plant foods such as breads (brown or wholemeal), cereals, grain products, rice, pasta and root vegetables such as beets and carrots, peas and beans, and potatoes with every meal. These foods are all excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Dietary fibre consists of the components of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain cereals that are not readily digested. A number of studies suggest that a high-fibre diet may help to prevent colon cancer.
Choose foods low in fats and salt. Avoid high fat foods, particularly those high in animal fats. If eaten at all, limit red meat to three ounces (80 grams) a day. To reduce your salt intake, try to use herbs and spices to season food instead of salt. Low fat foods include lean meat, poultry, fish, low fat and skimmed milk products, cooked dry peas and beans, whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables. Added fat (including butter, margarine, oil and mayonnaise) should be avoided since it only increases the total fat in the diet. But not all fats are bad. Olive oil, Salmon and other oily fish, are great sources of Omega 3 and 6, and help with brain function, memory, concentration and even breaking down the bad fats in your body.
You should select most of the foods you eat from plant sources since these foods have little or no fat. You should attempt to reduce your daily fat intake to 20-30% of total calories.
It is so easy to go for the processed food option, but you should try to follow the above advice wherever possible to extend your life and improve your health.
Vitamin supplements are always a good idea to complement a healthy diet, ensuring that your body has all of the nutrients it needs to operate a healthy immune system and the antioxidants it needs to fight free radicals in the body.
Antioxidants have been shown to have many health benefits. Besides reducing the incidence of heart disease and stroke, antioxidants may help reduce the incidence of cancer. They act as protective substances by destroying free radicals, which are the harmful by-products formed through the body’s metabolism. Free radicals damage cells and initiate carcinogenesis which is the development of cancerous cells. Vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E and selenium are all antioxidants. In addition there are hundreds of other naturally occurring antioxidants found in plant foods.
Studies have shown that antioxidants work best when combined and that the presence of fibre and other plant compounds may provide additional health benefits. Consequently it is recommended that you get most of your antioxidants from your diet and use supplements simply to top up your diet.
Although toxic levels for antioxidants have not been established, excessive levels can be harmful and may interfere with cancer therapies. If you are undergoing any cancer therapy it is important to inform your doctor of any supplements you are taking.
Other good foods to include in your diet are as follows:
Tomatoes: tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant with strong anti-cancer effects. For absorption, remember that they must be eaten with a small amount of oil, as in tomato sauce, tomato ketchup, or a fresh tomato salad with a little olive oil. This is because lycopene is oil soluble and needs the oil to carry it into your body whilst being digested. Watermelon and pink grapefruit also contain lycopene, although at a lower concentration.
Garlic: Although garlic may have developed a little stigma due to its aroma, it is a food with a number of cancer-fighting compounds. Garlic contains selenium, which can block early stage breast cancer and contains organosulphur compounds that have many health benefits, including inhibiting cancer.
Broccoli: Much interest in prevention is focused on cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Broccoli contains indoles, including sulphuraphane, an isothiocyanate that seems to inhibit breast tumours. By weight, fresh broccoli, boiled and drained, has 16% more vitamin C than an orange, roughly as much calcium as milk, a significant amount of iron, and the stalk is high in fibre.
Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits contain chemicals called monoterpenes, including d-limonene. Such chemicals have shown particular value in preventing breast, liver and lung cancer. Eating these fruits will help boost your cancer fighting ability, although there are greater concentrations of the helpful chemicals in the peel of the fruit.
Brazil nuts and almonds: Brazil nuts have been found to be more protective against cancer than pure selenium selenite. They also contain ellagic acid, a compound that blocks enzymes that are necessary for the growth of cancer cells. Almonds and especially almond extract contain benzaldehyde, shown in clinical studies to exert an anti-cancer effect. So use almond extract to flavour drinks and find ways to include almonds into your diet.
Red grapes, red wine and grape juice: Grape skins contain resveratrol, a phytoalexin, and other potent anti-cancer chemicals. Grape seeds contain pycnogenol, which is reputed to have anti-cancer properties, so if possible, chew them rather than spitting them out.
Green tea: If you are a regular drinker of tea or coffee, try using decaffeinated green tea as a substitute. Green tea contains catechins such as EGCG as well as other anti-cancer bioflavinoids.
Get the exercise you need: If your day-to-day activity is relatively slow paced, you should try to take 30 minutes a day to do some walking or another similar exercise. This should be accompanied by at least one hour of more strenuous activities each week. A sedentary way of life is estimated to contribute to 3 percent of total cancer mortality in the developed world.
Maintain a healthy weight: Try to avoid being underweight or overweight and if possible limit weight gain during adulthood to less than 11 pounds (5 kg) above your ideal weight. A healthy diet should help with this. Eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting the physical activity you need can reduce your risk of getting cancer by as much as 30 to 40 percent.
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all: If consumed, you should limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women. Alcoholic beverages have been estimated to contribute to about 3 percent of total cancer mortality in the developed world.
Avoid the use of tobacco in any form: I am sure that everyone is aware that smoking is a primary cause of lung cancer. However, many people do not realise that smoking also greatly increases the risk of a number of other cancers and increases the damage caused by any other airborne pollution. To reduce your risk, do not smoke, and try to avoid second-hand smoke. Remember, it is never too late to give up smoking. Even if a heavy smoker gives up smoking today, in 10 to 15 years’ time their risk of getting lung cancer will be similar to that of a person who has never smoked. A recent notable study also concluded that vitamin E can significantly reduce the risk of cancer from smoking, so at the very least, consider a good multivitamin such as Scientia Nutrition MultiVitamins, or even vitamin E capsules.
Avoid smoky environments: Although there are more and more no smoking areas in the UK and other countries, people are still being affected by the harmful effects of passive smoking. Admittedly, the risk of cancer from passive smoking is much less than actually smoking yourself, but it still puts you ten times more at risk than someone who isn’t exposed to second-hand smoke.
Protect yourself from the sun: UV B radiation from the sun is a primary cause of skin cancer. Despite the temptation to get a tan, you should shade yourself with clothing and a hat, or use generous amounts of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more. UV protected sunglasses will protect your eyes. If you have ever been exposed to excessive levels of sunlight you should perform regular self-examinations in front of a mirror. Monitor any unusual areas of skin, such as moles or freckles and check to see if they change size, shape or texture. Any changes should be shown to your Doctor as a priority.
Check for radon gas in your home: Radon is a radioactive gas that seeps from certain soils and rocks, and accumulates in buildings. It is the second largest cause of lung cancers. You can buy inexpensive radon testing kits to monitor your home to see if you or your family are at risk. A radon level greater than four picoCuries per litre in a home requires preventive steps. The cancer risk in a high-radon environment is about one tenth as much as that from heavy smoking.
Cancer prevention – Things to avoid:
Limit red meat: If red meat (beef, pork and lamb) is a regular feature of your diet you should consider choosing alternatives such as poultry and fish – because a high intake of red meat has been linked to prostate, colon and rectal cancers. It is currently not clear whether the increased risk is due to a high intake of saturated fat or other compounds in the meat. It is generally recommended that poultry (without the skin) and fish are better choices since they contain less saturated fat. To get the most benefit, try to avoid adding fat when cooking. It is best to broil, bake, steam and braise your foods.
Smoked and processed meats such as ham, contain nitrites that have also been associated with cancers in animal studies.
In addition to reducing your intake of red meat the best dietary change you can make is to add more vegetables, fruits, and grains to your diet. These foods are low in fat, high in fibre and loaded with compounds and nutrients that have been shown in numerous studies to prevent cancer.
Avoid excessive exposure to chemicals: Petrol / Gasoline and Diesel contain known carcinogenic chemicals which can be absorbed through your skin, or by inhaling the vapours while fuelling your car.
Building materials in older properties may contain asbestos. Some foamed insulation materials and glues may also contain formaldehyde, which is potentially carcinogenic. Other potentially carcinogenic chemicals may be found in everyday cleaning solutions and paint solvents, so handle with care.
When preparing vegetables, wash them thoroughly or buy organic vegetables – although when responsibly applied, pesticides are believed to pose only a very small risk.
Radiation: Unlike smoking and the dietary practices we have mentioned, many other threats, albeit less consequential ones, are rather difficult to avoid. Various forms of radiation – from the sun, electric power lines, household appliances, cellular telephones and naturally occurring radioactive radon gas are the most highly publicised of the threats that have been proposed.
Radiation causes perhaps 2 percent of all cancer deaths. Most of these fatalities result from natural sources of radiation, of which the majority can be attributed to melanoma skin cancer triggered by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Within the ultraviolet spectrum that reaches the earth’s surface, the most troubling component consists of the higher-frequency ultraviolet B rays, which can damage DNA. Ultraviolet B rays alone cause more than 90 percent of skin cancers, including melanomas, which are much more frequently fatal than all other forms of skin cancer.
A balanced diet and the avoidance of harmful environmental factors are clearly a good idea. The problem lies in the fact that mass production and intensive farming has reduced the nutritional values of food. In many developed countries, the average nutritional value of food is as little as half of what it was in the 1950’s. On this basis, a quality vitamin supplement should be a priority to improve your health and potentially extend your lifespan.
But to avoid confusion, we must also say that if you are experiencing any sort of symptoms that could be related to cancer, please consult with your Doctor urgently, as this article is not a replacement for medical advice from a professional.
Early cancer detection and actions to take:
Many cancers can be successfully treated if detected early enough. It is important to seek medical advice if you notice any persistent changes in your health. If you ignore the symptoms and it turns out to be cancer, the delay could mean that the cancer has spread and become less easy to treat.
Every cancer has its own signs and symptoms, but these are the most important to look out for:
- A lump anywhere in your body, e.g. breast or testicle.
- A change in a skin mole.
- A sore that does not heal.
- A persistent cough or hoarseness.
- Persistent indigestion or difficulty swallowing.
- Coughing up or vomiting blood.
- Change in normal bowel habit, such as persistent diarrhoea or constipation.
- Any bleeding in the urine or bowel motions and any abnormal vaginal bleeding.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Unexplained loss of appetite.
Having one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have cancer, but you should see your doctor immediately so that the situation can be fully assessed.
It is also important to realise that many cancers do not exhibit symptoms until the later stages of the disease, but there are a number of self-examinations you should conduct on a monthly basis. These can include breast examinations for women, testicular examinations for men and skin examinations for everyone – particularly if you have a higher than normal exposure to the sun.
Disclaimer: None of the above information should be taken as medical advice and is for entertainment / information purposes only. We would always advocate that you consult with your Doctor. In particular, if you are experiencing any symptoms, this information certainly is not an alternative to treatment by a medical professional.