With 35 percent of cancers being related to nutrition, eating the right foods may be crucial for cancer prevention. Many people still believe cancer to be a genetic disease that is impossible to prevent, but new studies are showing that nutrition is an important aspect. With half of all cancers being preventable, it was not a surprise that World Cancer Day on February 4 was focused on changing lifestyle and diet in order to prevent the disease.
The World Cancer Research Fund and the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) are working together to educate people on how to prevent cancer. Compiling 7,000 studies, they have focused on convincing people that by eating the right foods, cancer prevention can be accomplished. According to the team, people should keep a close eye on their BMI, which should always be between 18.5 and 25. In addition, eating real foods, including large amounts of vegetables and fruits, and moderating the intake of red meat are important as well as moving at least 30 minutes per day to maintain a healthy body. They also advise people to not take any supplements as several studies have shown these may increase the risk of cancer.
Cynthia Thompson, Ph.D. and professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckermann College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, agrees with the World Cancer Research Fund and the UICC. “The message is simple. If you want to reduce the risk of cancer, you should eat a healthy diet, limit alcohol, stop smoking and start moving,” she says. Leading a study, involving 93,676 women, Dr. Thompson spent 8.5 years monitoring lifestyle behaviors to find out more about the relationship between cancer and eating the right foods. The results show that healthy nutrition and physical activity are associated with a lower risk of cancer, especially for post-menopausal women.
Deborah Gordon, MD, however, thinks that eating the right foods is not the most important thing that may prevent cancer. “There should be a balance between excitement and relaxation in life. This can reduce stress, which increases the risk of cancer tremendously. Social involvement is also shown to be a good way to prevent cancer, so go out for a walk in the sun with friends,” she says.
While some may think that it is too late to prevent cancer due to their stressful and unhealthy lifestyle, Dr. Thompson proves otherwise. She explains, “The study we performed included many women of older age. Changing your nutrition and lifestyle to prevent cancer can be done at any age and the same can be said for men.”
A global report, released by the International Agency for Research and Cancer (IARC), shows that cancer is the biggest cause of mortality worldwide and that the number of incidences have increased by 11 percent over the past four years. If people remain living their current lifestyles, the IARC expects cancer incidences to rise by 75 percent, resulting in 25 million incidences over the next 20 years.
The IARC states that nutrition is important in cancer prevention and that eating the right foods is the simplest way to stop cancer from being the world’s biggest cause of mortality.
By Diana Herst