Mounting research suggests that adhering to an energy-balanced diet (consuming only as many calories as you burn) may reduce your risk for cancer. Additionally, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) identifies 12 common cancers that may be spurred by unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity and improper weight management. These 12 cancers are:
The most recent evidence that links diet to cancer involves observational studies that asked individuals between the ages of 30 and 60 to answer an in-depth questionnaire regarding weight, diet, physical activity level and other health factors. The participants were then followed for several decades to monitor the development of cancer.
Alarmingly, the AICR reports that as much as 69 percent of esophageal cancers, 45 percent of colon cancers and 38 percent of breast cancers may be directly related to poor diet and improper weight management. Statistically significant percentages were also found for the nine other cancer types.
Previous studies have already suggested that an energy-balanced diet improves cancer treatment outcomes and lowers the risk for cancer to return. However, this is the first study to indicate that healthy diet and lifestyle may actually help prevent the onset of cancer.
Based on these findings, the AICR recommends a variety of health-conscious eating habits. Some eating habits that may decrease risk of cancer include:
- Lowering intake of red meat and processed meat (these foods are associated with colo-rectal cancer)
- Increasing intake of fruits and non-starchy vegetables (may reduce risk of esophageal cancer)
- Consuming no more than one alcoholic beverage each day for women or two alcoholic beverages for men (alcohol increases caloric intake and may increase risk of breast cancer)
- Take steps to reduce excess body fat, particularly around the waist (linked to lowered risk of liver, gallbladder and endometrial cancer)
- Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes (wide-ranging health benefits)