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Dietary and lifestyle changes for cancer prevention.

It was previously estimated that a third of all cancer cases can be prevented by altering our dietary and lifestyle habits.

What can I do to lower my risk of developing cancer?

According to the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, the following set of guidelines can be followed to reduce your risk of developing cancer:

  • “Be a healthy weight. “
    Being a overweight or obese is causative of 12 types of cancer.
    You can calculate your Body Mass Index as indication of your weight status (you weight in kg divided by the squared meters of your height).
    Being a healthy weight means having a Body Mass Index below 25 kg/m2 and above 18.5 kg/m2.
  • “Be physically active.”
    Being active can help protect against several cancers and can help maintain a healthy weight.
    Be active for at least 150 min/week, preferably exercises that will leave you out of breath.
Be active for at least 150 min/week, preferably exercises that will leave you out of breath.
  • “Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans.”
    Whole grains are associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer. Diets high in non-starchy vegetables, fruit and beans are associated with a reduced risk of cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

Aim for at least 400 g of fruit and non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, aubergines etc. and 28 g of fibre/day from beans, lentils, unrefined starchy foods (potatoes with skin, whole grain bread, oats, rice, pasta, maize meal).

Examples of these foods include canned meat, ready-to-eat-foods, packaged foods with many ingredients, take-aways, sweets and savory snacks.

  • “Limit consumption of ‘fast foods’ and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars.”
    Consumption of fast foods and processed foods are energy dense and is mostly consumed in large portion sizes which may cause weight gain. These foods have a high glycaemic load (fast increase in blood sugar when it is consumed) which is associated with endometrial cancer.
Aim to consume less than 500 g of red meat per week.
  • “Limit consumption of red and processed meat.”
    Red and processed meat consumption is associated with colorectal cancer. Although red meat is a good source of protein and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), consumption of red meat is not needed to maintain sufficient nutritional status.

  • “Limit consumption of sugar sweetened drinks.”
    Over consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain.
    Rather consume water (add fruit pieces to your water for extra flavor), sugar free drinks or unsweetened ice-tea.
  • “Limit alcohol consumption.”
    Alcoholic drinks are causative of many cancers.
  • “Do not use supplements for cancer.”
    Taking supplementation of high-dose beta-carotene causes lung cancer. Consuming a diverse diet are more likely to protect against cancer than dietary supplements.
"We have forgotten that curing cancer starts with preventing cancer in the first place."
-David Agus

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