The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that diet, together with physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight, can in time reduce cancer incidence by 30–40%. At current rates, on a global basis, this represents 3–4 million cases of cancer per year that could be prevented by lifestyle changes! Reduce your risk of cancer by taking the following steps:
- Quit using tobacco. Tobacco causes 90 out of every 100 lung cancer cases. Smokeless tobacco creates sores and white patches that may lead to cancer of the mouth. For pipe and cigar smokers, the risk of lung cancer is not as high as cigarette smokers, but not as low as non-smokers.
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. Maintaining a healthy weight not only decreases the risk of cancer recurrence but also other chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease. Carrying extra body fat, especially around the abdomen, raises hormone levels that can promote the development of colon cancer and probably cancers of the breast, endometrium, and pancreas. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to find out if your weight puts you at risk. Your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or doctor can help you determine what a healthy weight is for you. Let him or her know if you have recently gained unwanted weight.
- Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans should take up at least 2/3 of your plate. To maximize the variety of vitamins, minerals and “phytonutrients” (protective compounds found naturally in plants) in your diet, vary the colors of your fruits and vegetables as much as possible.
- Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.To reduce your cancer risk, eat no more than 18 ounces of red meat per week. Processed meats include smoked, salted and cured meats. Examples are cold cuts, bacon, sausage and ham.
- Avoid sugary drinks and limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, low in fiber or high in fat).
Examples include soda, cookies, cakes, chips, etc.
- If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day.
Despite some evidence linking moderate alcohol consumption to lower risk for heart disease, this protective effect does not apply to cancer. AICR recommends avoiding even small amounts of alcohol. If you do choose to drink, limit to one drink a day for women and two for men.
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium). Most of us get far more sodium than we need from processed foods. Hold off on using the salt shaker and read food labels to help you choose low-sodium processed foods with no more than 300 mg. of sodium per serving.
- Do not rely on supplements to protect against cancer.Dietary supplements do not replace the cancer prevention power and the variety of nutrients we can obtain from fresh, wholesome foods. Inappropriate use of dietary supplements can increase the risk of certain cancers and other health conditions. Individualized supplement recommendations can only be made after a thorough dietary assessment by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Consult with your physician before taking any dietary supplements.
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity daily. Along with eating a healthy diet, being active not only reduces your risk of cancer, but also diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other serious health problems. Physical activity can help control hormone levels, reduce inflammation in the body and boosts immune function to enhance your body’s ability to fight off disease.