When it comes to the risk of developing cancer, many people think it’s either genetics or bad luck involved. In reality, there are a number of interconnected elements that can lead to a diagnosis of cancer. Some of them, like family history, age, exposure to certain factors, cannot be controlled, but others, like nutrition and lifestyle, can be easily managed.
The American Institute for Cancer (AIC) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) have compiled a comprehensive guide that is regularly updated with useful and practical information. The Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Cancer: A Global Perspective offers recommendations based on the most recent studies which explore the associations between nutrition and this terrible disease.
A 2018 study with approximately 41,500 participants highlighted its effectiveness. Compared to other established dietary plans, the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010), a score based on adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MEDI-LITE), and the French National Nutrition Health Program-Guideline Score (PNNS-GS), the AIC/WCRF diet showed superior results. Overall, it produced a lower risk of cancer by 12%, a decrease in breast cancer by 14% and a 12% reduction in prostate cancer.
Unsurprisingly, the guide suggests consuming plant-based, high fiber foods, plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and legumes, while maintaining an active lifestyle. These can also prevent other chronic diseases and help keep the weight in check. Having a wide variety in terms of options and colors is best.
Dairy products have been linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. High calcium plans were beneficial against breast cancers. Casein and lactose, along with other nutrients and bioactive constituents in dairy products, such as lactoferrin, vitamin D or the short-chain fatty acid butyrate may have some protective functions against cancer.
In terms of foods to avoid, the AIC/WCRF plan recommends limiting the intake of red and processed meat. “Processed meat is rich in fat, protein and haem iron which can promote tumorigenesis”, it notes. Cooking meat at high temperatures for prolonged times can result in the formation of heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, “both of which have been linked to colorectal cancer”.
It’s best to stay away from fast foods, highly processed foods, and sugary drinks, or at least consume in moderation, as they cause weight gain. Obesity can lead to a number of cancers, including stomach, liver, kidney, pancreas, breast.
Exercising on a regular basis provides many health benefits, including a reduction in cancer risk.
Being informed is the first step in winning the fight against cancer, and with these simple suggestions, you can enjoy a long and healthy life.
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