Cancer Prevention and Diet

colon cancer month

The “go to” source on all things cancer is The American Cancer Society (ACS) and their website, www.cancer.org, is comprehensive and an excellent source of information. Time spent exploring all that this site has to offer is well worth your effort.

For most Americans who do not use tobacco, the most important cancer risk factors that can be changed are body weight, diet, and physical activity. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, and thus could also be prevented.  The ACS makes the following diet/nutrition recommendations to help one lower their risk of cancer:

Choose foods and drinks in amounts that help you get to and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Read food labels to become more aware of portion sizes and calories. Be aware that “low-fat” or “non-fat” does not necessarily mean “low-calorie.”
  • Eat smaller portions when eating high-calorie foods.
  • Choose vegetables, whole fruit, and other low-calorie foods instead of calorie-dense foods such as French fries, potato and other chips, ice cream, donuts, and other sweets.
  • Limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit-flavored drinks.
  • When you eat away from home, be especially mindful to choose food low in calories, fat, and added sugar, and avoid eating large portion sizes.

Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat.

  • Limit your intake of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meats, and hot dogs.
  • Choose fish, poultry, or beans instead of red meat (beef, pork, and lamb).
  • If you eat red meat, choose lean cuts and eat smaller portions.
  • Prepare meat, poultry, and fish by baking, broiling, or poaching rather than by frying or charbroiling.

Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.

  • Include vegetables and fruits at every meal and for snacks.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Emphasize whole fruits and vegetables; choose 100% juice if you drink vegetable or fruit juices.
  • Limit your use of creamy sauces, dressings, and dips with fruits and vegetables.

Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.

  • Choose whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereals (such as barley and oats) instead of breads, cereals, and pasta made from refined grains, and brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Limit your intake of refined carbohydrate foods, including pastries, candy, sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals, and other high-sugar foods.

One might be overwhelmed at the prospect of making all of these dietary changes at once to lower the risk of cancer.  One suggestion might be to choose several items to begin with, implement them and give them time to become routine and then introduce several more after a few weeks have passed.  The goal would be to make these changes permanent and that might be more likely if changes are implemented over time.

Again, don’t forget to go to www.cancer.org to learn more about lowering your risk of cancer!