Eating Right for Cancer Prevention and Survival

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Every year, more than one million Americans are diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, a healthy diet can significantly reduce cancer risk. According to the National Cancer Institute, 80 percent of cancers are due to factors that can potentially be controlled; 35 to 50 percent of those factors are related to nutrition.

The African–American community has more new cases of cancer and deaths from cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. African–American men are disproportionately affected by cancers of the lung, colon, rectum and pancreas. According to statistics from the Intercultural Cancer Council, the most commonly diagnosed cancer for African–American men is prostate cancer. The most common cancer among African–American women is breast cancer. African–American men and women are less likely than white men and women to survive cancer.

As long ago as 1982, the National Research Council published a report called Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer showing the evidence already available linking specific dietary factors to cancer of the breast and other organs. And new scientific evidence–including major studies from Harvard University–has linked dairy consumption to an increased risk of prostate cancer. That’s because fatty foods–including milk, cheese, vegetable oils and meat–can strongly influence sex hormones, which can boost cancer–causing hormones in the body. Even low–fat dairy products encourage prostate cancer–cell growth by boosting growth factors in the blood. Could cutting out meats and dairy products and adding more vegetables to our plates turn down the hormonal stimulation of the prostate and breast and reduce the risk of cancer at those sites?

The Cancer Project supports the notion that proper diet plays a crucial role in cancer prevention and survival. By choosing healthy, low–fat vegetarian foods, including beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, everyone can improve their overall heath and reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Studies show that people on plant–based diets are about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer compared to meat eaters.

Cancer is the second–leading cause of death in the United States, but we can change that by making healthier food choices.

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