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Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in the United States, and diet may be the leading cause of cancer. The balance of evidence suggests that a whole food, plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, slow, and even reverse cancer progression. It’s never too late to start eating healthier, as cancer risk may drop after starting a plant-based diet at any age.

Preventing Cancer

Plant-based diets may be effective because they lower methionine intake, inhibit angiogenesis, intercept carcinogens and increase fiber and antioxidants. Populations eating diets centered on whole plant foods have lower rates of cancer. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables—at least nine daily servings—may boost detoxifying enzymes, lower inflammation, lower cholesterol and make for healthier bowel movements, ridding the body of excess estrogen and cholesterol.

Research studies have focused on many specific foods associated with anti-cancer properties. These include many kinds of fruits, legumes, spices, teas and coffees, vegetables and nuts.

Other lifestyle habits that appear to help prevent cancer include an hour of exercise every day, seven hours of sleep every night, and reduced exposure to tanning beds, cell-phone radiation, CT scans and dental x-rays. Meditation may also improve DNA health, preventing premature shortening of our telomeres.

Cancer Risks

Consumption of animal products, on the other hand, appears to increase the risk of cancer. Research has shown an association between increased risk of cancer and the consumption of certain foods like cooked meats, dairy, eggs, smoked fish and poultry.

What’s behind this increased cancer risk? It may be the inflammatory Neu5Gc molecule found in meat. Certain tumors thrive in an inflammatory setting. The insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) may also been linked to cancer. Heme iron found in the blood and muscle tissue of animal foods may also increase risk of cancer, as may the chemical pollutants in meat, which can lead to premature puberty, putting children at higher risk for cancer later in life.

Other exposures that appear to increase cancer risk include: acrylamide in foods such as French fries, alcohol, caramel coloring, kimchi, Red dye No. 3 and yerba mate.

After a cancer diagnosis, cutting down on saturated animal fat appears to improve cancer survival and oatmeal lotion may help with chemotherapy-induced rashes.

Please search for specific types of cancer here for more detailed information.

 

Image credit: Illia Uriadnikov © 123RF.com. This image has been modified.

Topic summary contributed by Linda

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