Role of Diet
The most important environmental risk factors in the development of human cancer is that of poor diet.
Many of us think that poor diet is nothing but obtaining too little of nutrients essential to good health. This is not the case, as overconsumption can also be a factor. Malnutrition can be a penalty of abundance.
Much of what has been learned about the role of diet in the formation of cancers has come from the studies of populations (epidemiology).
Cancers of the breast, uterus, prostate, and colon are the leading causes of cancer death. The specific cause and effect relationships remain uncertain, there is evidence that some of these cancers may be related to our diet.
Some experiments confirm the association of certain eating habits with the development of various cancers, mostly those of the gastrointestinal tract and of the breast, uterus, and prostate cancer.
Cause and effect relationships between diet and cancer are difficult to describe. The reasons are many. For example, some foods contain substances which can cause tumors, while other foods contain some natural inhibitors of the process which leads to the full development of cancerous tumors.
However, cancer develops in two main steps, A change in normal cells is caused by an initiator. The transformed cell is susceptible to environmental influences, or promoters of cancer. Diet is considered a possible promoter of cancer rather than an initiator. Ongoing research is going on.
Although at present there is no diet that can be said to guarantee the prevention of any specific human cancer. But, there are some guidelines.
We should take food which are low in fat, high in fiber, rich in foods from plant sources, and with small amounts of foods from low fat animal sources (dairy products, meats, and fats).
The following are some dietary guidelines
From a research study, it was found that an increased incidence of cancer of the gallbladder, kidney, stomach, colon, breast, and lining of the uterus affects obese people. In that study men and women 40% overweight had a greater risk of cancer than those with normal weight.
Obesity is associated with changes in the metabolism of hormones. There may be a link between body weight, hormone levels, and risk of cancer. Everyone should maintain an ideal weight through appropriate eating and increased exercise.
Cut down on total fat intake
The chance of getting cancer is high with fat. Fat is the substance for which there is the strongest evidence of a link between diet and cancer. Studies suggest that a high intake of fat increases the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers.
Animal research indicates a distinction between the effects of polyunsaturated and saturated fats on tumor production when total fat intake is low, polyunsaturates being the more cancer producing, but not when total fat intake is high.
Excessive intake of all fats, both saturated and unsaturated, whether from plant or animal sources, increases the development of breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Besides, diets high in fat are also high in calories. Cutting down on fat will help in preventing obesity.
Eat more high fiber foods
If we take more fiber diet, it can protect us against colon cancer. Fiber, also known as roughage, refers to a number of substances not readily digested in the intestines.
It is a complex mixture of components such as cellulose, lignin, gums, pectins, and mucilages. These are found in unrefined grains, bran, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
Some early studies showed that colorectal cancer is low in populations who live on a diet of largely unrefined food which is high in fiber. This fiber component is found mostly in whole wheat products and bran. Some other studies have indicated that the consumption of cellulose and bran prevents the development of colon cancer induced by chemical carcinogens.
Even if fiber by itself does not protect against cancer, high fiber containing cereals, legumes fruits, and vegetables are excellent choices to replace fatty foods.
Take foods rich in vitamin A and C
All green vegetables as well as yellow orange fruits are rich in beta carotene. Beta carotene is a form, or precursor of vitamin A, it is converted into vitamin A by the body. Studies indicate that food rich in vitamin A and beta carotene may lower the risk of cancer of the larynx, esophagus, and lung.
As vitamin A is fat soluble and is stored in the liver, it is toxic in large quantities. It is important that vitamin A should come from natural sources rather than from vitamin pills.
Some studies have shown that consumption of foods high in vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer of the esophagus and stomach. Vitamin C can inhibit the formation in the stomach of cancer-producing nitrosamines and also help maintain the strength of the immune system of the body.
Eat moderately of salt-cured, smoked, and nitrite-cured foods
Salt curing and smoking are some methods that are used to preserve foods such as meats, fish, and sausages.
Some incomplete combustion in the smoking process results in tars, which are absorbed into the food. These tars contain carcinogens similar to tars in tobacco smoke.
People who consume salt-cured, salt-pickled, or smoked food develop a great number of cancers of the stomach and the esophagus.
And also, nitrites are commonly used to cure meats and fish to preserve their color and prevent food poisoning (botulism).
In the body, nitrites can combine with protein to form nitrosamines. It is better to reduce or avoid entirely the consumption of salt-cured, smoked, and nitrite-cured foods. Many of these foods are also high in Fat.
Excessive alcohol intake, especially when combined with cigarette smoking, increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus. Recent studies have shown that the consumption of wine and other alcohols is linked with the development of cancers of the esophagus and liver.
It is suggested that no more than two drinks be consumed per day. Two drinks means two 12-ounce beers or two 4-ounce glasses of wine or two cocktails or any combination of two drinks.
Physicians and dietitians do not recommend that two drinks be consumed every day, only that people who habitually drink limit their consumption to two drinks. It is recommended that, if you rink, you do so in moderation.
Not a fad diet
Maintaining an appropriate weight while eating a well-balanced diet low in fat, high in fiber, with plenty of foods rich in vitamins A and C and reducing salt-cured, smoked food and alcohol consumption is good for health. No quick-fix, no excess of one type of food, no total dietary exclusions, no unnecessary supplements.