Diet and Cancer (part II)

OK, as I mentioned last time it is very hard to quantitative the exact risks that one has for certain cancer or for cancer overall by eating unhealthy foods or by not eating enough of healthy ones.  However, for certain cancers definitive links have been made.  Let me list some of them one at a time.

1.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are known to contain many useful nutrients and vitamins that can be cancer preventative in nature (very general statement). Specifically, Vit A, Vit C, and carotenoids have been shown to be beneficial in retarding lung, colon and rectum, breast, oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, uterine cervix, and ovary.  Epithelial cancers along the gut and respiratory tract are known to occur twice as much in those who DO NOT eat enough fruits and vegetables in comparison to those who eat them often. 

2. Diets high in fiber have been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer and other studies have shown some benefits in reduced cancer of the following sites: breast, rectum, oral cavity, pharynx, and stomach.  These studies are complicated as they used fruits and vegetables high in fiber and the results are hard to determine if it’s the fiber or other properties that helped.  Either way, fruits, vegetables and fiber do help!

3. Fats are a no-no!  It is quite clear now from many studies, some quite old now that high fat diets are linked to increase risks of cancer for the following: breast, colon, prostate, and possibly pancreas, ovary, and endometrium (USDHHS, 1988; National Research Council, 1989).  When one compares high fat diets of certain counties to low-fat diets of other countries the low-fat diet containing populations show dramatic lower incidences of death due to breast colon and prostrate cancer…and all three are huge killers in Western countries.  Many studies have shown (but not 100% conclusive) that fats of the saturated category fare much worse.  On average Americans take in much more calories from fat than is physiologically needed…reducing that fat intake should help improve overall cancer rates significantly.

4. Others: Vitamin C has been shown to provide some benefits in esophagus, oral cavity, and stomach cancers and shown to be protective in some others as well.  Vitamin E inhibits the development of some tumors in mice and some studies point to its beneficial effects but not all studies find significant results in vitamin E’s protective effects.  Calcium is another nutrient from food that has shown in some studies to lower the risk of getting certain cancers.

Eating healthy is for sure an excellent way to change one’s lifestyle to decrease the risk of getting certain cancers.  But one must use cautions and 1) not overtake these as they can hurt your liver, kidney and other organs if you take too much, 2) getting nutrients from foods is a much better way to get them than from tablets in general, 3) there are few studies that PROVE the positive effects of any of these, they just suggest that they play a risk reduction role, 4) Be careful about all the claims out there about this and that organic/natural/isolated anti cancer product that you should buy in tablet or dried powder form.  Little to no studies have been performed with many of the formations, some might even make you ill, some might not be pure at all, and at the very least some provide NO protection whatsoever.  Take these at your own risk at they are not usually regulated by any governmental oversight!  Eating healthy is something that you can do, is safe, and makes your whole body healthy at the same time…now that’s a no brainer!

Peace … Dr. C


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