The connection between our diet and lifestyle with developing cancer
The type of diet and lifestyle that humans choose and observe have a profound impact on their physical and mental health, including their risk for developing or avoiding cancer and other chronic diseases.
Experts can't say for sure that certain foods stop or prevent cancer, thanks to the nature of scientific studies. But certain foods and drinks have been shown to have a strong association with cancer.
Red meat, such as beef or lamb, has high levels of iron that may contribute to cancer growth, and in particular colorectal cancer.
Red meat's cancer association may also have something to do with the way meat is cooked. Harmful chemicals are formed when meat is exposed to high temperatures during the cooking process, especially when grilling, and have been linked to colorectal cancer.
Processed meats, such as bacon, ham or hot dogs, also increase the risk for cancer because they contain nitrates and nitrites, which can damage cells at the DNA level that causes them to grow in an abnormal way.
Drinking alcohol can raise one's risk for cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, breast, colon, rectum, pancreas and stomach. The more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk.
Indirect cancer links
A generally unhealthy diet can also affect your cancer risk. Consuming lots of processed, fatty, sugary or high-calorie foods or drinks can lead to two conditions that play a role in cancer development.
Overweight or obesity. One of the main ways excess weight increases cancer risk is the impact on the body to make and circulate more estrogen and insulin; both are hormones that can stimulate cancer growth.
It's estimated that as many as 10% of cancers in women and 5% in men are related to obesity.
Chronic inflammation. Both obesity and an unhealthy diet promote chronic inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation in the body can lead to DNA damage, which may lead to cancer.
To stave off cancer with diet, experts recommend a plant-focused eating pattern, with plant foods such as vegetables, legumes and grains filling about two-thirds of your plate.
The diet can also include moderate amounts of animal-based foods, as long as they're no more than a third of each meal.
Plant-based diets include whole grains, legumes such as beans or lentils, seeds and nuts, lean proteins such as fish, healthy fats like olive or canola oil and low-fat dairy foods.
Plant foods are rich in fiber and loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which work together to reduce chronic inflammation and have an anti-cancer effect.
Beyond anti-Cancer foods
It takes more than a healthy diet to try to avoid cancer. You also need to live a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and weight control.
A healthy lifestyle includes daily exercise. Aim for 30 minutes per day or get at least 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking per week.
Adequate sleep is also important. Try to get about seven hours daily.
Stress reduction. Chronic stress triggers chronic inflammation. Meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga can help reduce stress.
Stop smoking. Smoking is directly related to many kinds of cancer. All aspects of a healthy lifestyle work together and give you a better chance at warding off cancer.