Eat Right for Cancer Prevention

Reviewed by Sharon Denny, MS, RDN
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Chances are your life has been touched by cancer — whether you, a parent, friend or even a child has been diagnosed. While cancer can leave us feeling helpless there are measures you can take to help reduce your risk. Your diet is one of the most important factors under your control.

Last year, it was estimated that over half a million Americans would lose their lives to cancer, and more than 1.6 million men and women would be diagnosed with this devastating illness. Lifestyle changes, including eating healthier and being more active, could prevent hundreds of thousands of cancer cases each year in the U.S.

Eating well can help you lower your risk and beat cancer in a variety of ways. And, if you have been diagnosed, eating well can positively support treatment and help you live well after treatment.

Here are some general guidelines to help reduce your cancer risk through eating right.

  • Maintaining a healthy weight is key to reducing your risk of cancer and other diseases. Being overweight or obese is likely to raise your risk for developing more than 13 types of cancer. Obesity can negatively affect inflammation in the body, the immune system, the way in which body cells grow and levels of certain hormones.
  • Eat fewer foods that are high in calories and fat and low in nutrients. Foods with added sugars and fats can cause weight gain and leave little room for more healthful, cancer-protective foods.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables including beans, which are linked with a lower risk of certain cancers. Fill half your plate each meal with a variety of naturally nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit alcohol. Evidence suggests all types of alcoholic drinks may increase your risk of a number of cancers, including mouth, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), esophagus, liver, breast, colon and rectum. It's unclear exactly how alcohol affects cancer risk. It is considered more harmful when combined with smoking. If you drink at all, limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one drink daily for women and two for men.

For more tips on reducing your risk or managing diseases through nutrition, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.

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