Everyone knows someone who has battled cancer, or they have fought the battle themselves. Cancer can affect anyone. Do we have to sit back and wait our turn for the inevitable diagnosis, or can cancer be prevented?
Cancer can affect anyone, but some people are at higher risk than others. Although some risk factors, such as inherited mutations, are fixed, a range of modifiable lifestyle and environmental factors can have a strong influence on cancer risk, meaning many cases of cancer are preventable. Between 30 and 50 percent of all cancer cases are estimated to be preventable through healthy lifestyles and avoiding exposure to occupational carcinogens, environmental pollution and certain long-term infections.
This quote comes from the Third Expert Report on Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective
, a detailed report full of up-to-date information about cancer, its causes and how to prevent it.
I am not going to go into how cancer develops in detail. In short… "Cancer develops when the normal processors that control cell behaviour fail and a rogue cell becomes the progenitor of a group of cells that share its abnormal behaviours or capabilities. This generally results in the accumulation of genetic damage in cells over time." These cancer cells are the beginning of a tumour, which when combined with other factors, result in cancer.
Diet and Cancer Prevention
The fact that diet and exercise affect the integrity of our DNA, and that damaged DNA is the root cause of cancer, it is clear that at least some cancers can be prevented by eating well and being more physically active.
There is strong evidence that being over weight and having a higher body fat percentage is a cause of many cancers. Apart from preventing diseases of lifestyle such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life, is important for preventing some cancers too. A healthy, balanced diet is always going to be the best way to lose weight
, but more importantly it will help you to maintain your weight loss over a longer period because you are more likely to develop healthy habits that can be sustained. As a dietician, I can help you lose weight and maintain it without feeling deprived.
Fruit and Vegetables
Everyone, well… almost everyone, knows that eating more fruit and vegetables and plants in general has many health benefits. The nutrients found in fruit and vegetables that are important for cancer prevention include: folate, fibre, carotenoids, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. Deficiencies of these nutrients result in changes in cellular function that could result in the development of cancer. We should all be eating a minimum of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day. More than that is even better! Do you eat your fruit and veggies? What are your excuses for not eating more plants
Red and Processed Meat
Chops and wors… Juicy steak… Lamb stew… Polony… Hot dogs… We are a nation of meat lovers! But what effect is all this red meat and processed meat having on our health? The nitrogenous chemicals that these foods expose us to can lead to greater inflammation, which in turn can result in an increased risk of developing cancer. Most people I see eat way more protein than we actually need, and often the focus is on red meat. So, what should we eat instead? I tend to focus my meal plans
around a Mediterranean-style diet. My interpretation of the guidelines means that I plan 2 vegetarian meals per week, 2 fish meals, and 3 split between chicken and red meat.
Most people enjoy a drink from time to time, some more than that and others tend to indulge on a daily basis. The greater the exposure of our bodies to alcohol, the greater the risk of developing cancer. Alcohol
causes oxidative stress, inflammation, an increase in oestrodial and a deficiency of folate. Alcohol should be limited to no more than 1 to 2 standard drinks per day and binge drinking should be avoided all together.
The changes that need to be made to reduce the risk of cancer may seem insurmountable, but they are worth making. Start slowly by being more mindful of what you eat on a daily basis. Drop me and email
if you would like some help making these changes.
Yours in health