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, the good news is that there are measures you can take to help prevent the disease. Your diet is one of the most important factors under your control.
This year, an estimated over half million Americans will lose their lives to cancer, and more than 1.6 million men and women will be diagnosed with this devastating illness. While there is a strong genetic component to cancer risk, lifestyle changes can prevent around one-third of all cancer deaths.
Eating well can help you prevent and beat cancer in a variety of ways. A nutritious diet can lower your risk for developing cancer. And, if you have been diagnosed, eating well can positively support treatment, and help you live well for years to come after treatment.
Here are some general guidelines to help reduce your cancer risk through eating right:
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases. The connection between cancer and obesity varies widely for different cancer types, but is as high as 50 percent for some cancers, particularly endometrial cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma.
- Reduce your intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars. Foods with added sugars and fats can cause weight gain and leave little room for more healthful, cancer-preventive 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), esophageal, liver, breast, colon and rectal. 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.