Cancer Prevention Diets and You

Several cancer prevention diets have been designed to increase your chances for a long, healthy life. The reason you should be particularly careful in your dietary choices is that not only does avoiding overweight and obesity decrease your chances of cancer, but certain foods can decrease your chances of cancer as well. When you think of cancer prevention diets, what cancers in particular come to mind? Well, let’s look at some areas that have promising results.

1) Bowel Cancer

Cancer prevention diets have been designed to reduce cancer of the bowel—in particular, foods high in fiber (fruits and vegetables and whole grains). However, exercise is very important too. Think of it this way: Our waste products are something our body wants to get rid of. The more we can help our body do that, the less it is exposed to potentially harmful toxins. Fiber in cancer prevention diets is the main ingredient. But what you don’t find in cancer prevention diets is exercise, which promotes bowel activity as well. One half hour a day of walking or its equivalent is the trick.

2) Prostate Cancer

Are there any magic bullets in cancer prevention diets for prostate cancer? Nothing is for sure, but a big possibility exists for prostate cancer in two areas. You may have heard that tomatoes are good for prostate health. The reason for this is that they contain high amounts of lycopene. There are other sources of lycopene too, including guava, papaya, grapefruit and watermelon. And you aren’t limited to raw tomatoes. In fact, high concentrations of lycopene can be found in tomato juice, tomato soup, chili peppers, sauces and even ketchup. A very recent study in the Journal of Urology showed that diets low in fat and high in vegetables, lycopene and soy reduced the incidence of prostate cancer.

(Van Patten CL, de Boer JG, Tomlinson Guns ES. 2008 “Diet and dietary supplement intervention trials for the prevention of prostate cancer recurrence: a review of the randomized controlled trial evidence.”  J Urol. 2008 Dec;180(6):2314-21)

In large population studies performed in over 60 countries, as well as in prospective cohort studies, “intake of dairy products, red meat and total dietary fat have been found to be positively correlated with increased risk of prostate cancer," the researchers wrote. "In contrast, consumption of soy products, fiber-containing foods, cruciferous vegetables and lycopene has been reported to be inversely associated with prostate cancer risk."

Another study conducted at George Mason University involving 60 countries reported this:
The Bad Guys for prostate cancer:
Dairy products, red meat, total dietary fat

 The Good Guys:
Soy products, fiber, vegetables, lycopene

Nutr Rev. 2007 Sep;65(9):391-403. Links
Diet and survival after prostate cancer diagnosis.
Berkow SE, Barnard ND, Saxe GA, Ankerberg-Nobis T.
George Mason University

To confirm this, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund released a report at the AICR Research Conference stating that red meat should be limited to less than three ounces daily, because red meats have been linked to cancers at several sites, especially colon and prostate.

3) Breast Cancer

Postmenopausal women who are overweight, and especially those who have extra belly fat, have more than twice the risk of acquiring breast cancer. In fact, some studies have shown that women who had breast cancer and reduced their weight had a higher chance of avoiding a recurrence. Diets high in mono-unsaturated fat and high in vegetables and fruits may reduce the risk, while alcohol consumption increases the risk. In fact, at the National Health Institute’s Womens’ Health Initiative, the largest trial ever studying the effects of reducing fat in women demonstrated a 9% decrease in breast cancer among those who had a low-fat diet. 

Let’s look at some other recent reports on certain foods that may help prevent breast cancer:

Flaxseed and Breast Cancer

Cancer prevention diets may include flaxseed. You have probably heard that flaxseed has lots of omega-3, which can help the heart, and that it is also high in fiber. But flaxseed is also a food that contains lignans—chemicals that may work like a “weak” estrogen, while blocking “stronger” estrogen manufactured in your body from reaching breast cells. This may be important, especially in postmenopausal women, where this could potentially mitigate the effects of estrogen which is manufactured in places outside of the ovaries (which are no longer producing it), such as fat tissue. Sounds good, however, more research is needed in this area to confirm these claims.

Mushrooms and Breast Cancer

You may have heard of mushrooms as a part of cancer prevention diets. After menopause, you may think estrogen stops because the ovaries stop working. However, in men and women alike, estrogen can still be made in other tissues with the help of aromatase, a natural chemical in our body. For breast cancer prevention, especially for women with higher risk, the less estrogen exposure, the lesser the chances of contracting breast cancer. The reason for this is that estrogen stimulates the growth and multiplication of breast tissue. Yes, most normal cells grow, divide and die off. However, some may mutate, and stimulation of the right mutated cell could lead to cancer later. Mushrooms contain linoleic acid, which may help stop aromatase from helping estrogen production. Dr. Chen at the Bekman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, California, reported that based on mice studies, about 100 grams (about 3 ounces) of mushrooms would do the trick.

Other cancer prevention diets involve green tea and soy. In an Australian study, Zhang et al showed that, at least in Chinese women, mushrooms and green tea combined to reduce breast cancer.

(Zhang M, Huang J, Xie X, Holman CD. School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia Int J Cancer. 2008 Oct 1. Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women..)

The Aquavore Diet, written by Dr. William Dunn, a physician devoted to fighting disease through cancer prevention diets, is designed to help you lose weight in a medically sound way, while at the same time helping you stave off cancer. Some cancer prevention diets may help you lose weight but not effectively fight cancer. Other cancer prevention diets may help you to get good nutrition, but without effective weight loss. The Aquavore Diet uses the latest science to find the correct balance while keeping your appetite under control. Cancer prevention diets may be too restrictive. The Aquavore Diet will let you have almost any of your favorite foods. 

Green Tea and Breast Cancer

Again, in Zhang’s Australian study, their team showed that in Chinese women mushrooms and green tea combined to reduce breast cancer.

Zhang M, Huang J, Xie X, Holman CD. School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia. Int J Cancer. 2008 Oct 1.  “Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women.”
In a study at USC, Wu et al also showed that Asian Americans who took green tea had a lower risk of breast cancer. Interestingly, a low soy intake, seemed to help the risk, while a low green tea intake and high soy seemed to even the odds as well.

Int J Cancer. 2003 Sep 10;106(4):574-9. Links  Green tea and risk of breast cancer in Asian Americans.Wu AH, Yu MC, Tseng CC, Hankin J, Pike MC  Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Soy and Breast Cancer

Soy has gained a lot of popularity, especially in the last decade. Women of the far east have high intakes of soy compared to western cultures, and theoretically this may be linked to a lower rate of breast cancer in these women, perhaps due in part to its phytoestrogens. Reviews have determined that there may be a reduced rate of breast cancer in people who consumed more soy in their cancer prevention diets while in their youth. However, to date it is still controversial whether older women, especially those at higher risk for breast cancer (such as those with a strong family history) or those who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer already, should include supplements from concentrates derived from soy products in their cancer prevention diets. Nevertheless, soy taken in its natural form (such as in soy nuts, soy milk or tofu) is not harmful.

4) Lung Cancer

A Harvard University study involving more than 400,000 patient charts showed that cancer prevention diets that involve an increase in fruits and vegetables reduced the incidence of lung cancer by up to 23% (attributable more to fruits than vegetables in fact) in smokers and non smokers alike.

Smith-Warner SA, Spiegelman D, Yaun SS, Albanes D, Beeson WL, van den Brandt PA, Feskanich D, Folsom AR, Fraser GE, Freudenheim JL, Giovannucci E, Goldbohm RA, Graham S, Kushi LH, Miller AB, Pietinen P, Rohan TE, Speizer FE, Willett WC, Hunter DJ. Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA Int J Cancer. 2003 Dec 20;107(6):1001-11.  “Fruits, vegetables and lung cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies.”

Supporting Harvard’s findings, UCLA also showed that, among smokers, vegetables, tea and wine should be included as part of a cancer prevention diet. These foods were all sources of the phytochemical (LINK) group of  flavonoids (including epicatechin, catechin, quercetin and kaempferol), and they showed a decrease in the incidence of lung cancer of around 40 to 50 percent!

Yan Cui, Hal Morgenstern, Sander Greenland, Donald P. Tashkin, Jenny T. Mao, Lin Cai, Wendy Cozen, Thomas M. Mack, Qing-Yi Lu, Zuo-Feng Zhang  Cancer,  Volume 112 Issue 10, Pages 2241 - 2248 “Dietary flavonoid intake and lung cancer - A population-based case-control study”.

The take home message for smokers: eat more fruits and vegetables as part of your cancer prevention diets!

5) Non Hodgkins Lymphoma

A 50% reduction in risk by including fruits, vegetables and eggs as well as reducing cheese, pasta and rice as part of a cancer prevention diet was noted by Talamini et al in their Italian study.

Talamini R, Polesel J, Montella M, et al. Food Groups and Risk of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Multicenter, Case-Control Study in . International Journal of Cancer. 2006; 18: 2871–2876.

Johns Hopkins University showed that wine drinking as part of a cancer prevention diet in men decreased the incidence of lymphoma by almost 60 to 70% with one to two glasses daily!

Briggs NC, Levine1 RS, Bobo LD et al. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2002; 156:454-462. “Wine drinking and risk of non-hodgkins lymphoma among men in the United States: a population-based case-control study.”

Learn how to reduce your risk of cancer with cancer prevention diets. Read The Aquavore Diet!

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