An estimated 225,800 new cases of cancer and 83,300 deaths from cancer will occur in Canada in 2020. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.
Based on 2015 estimates nearly 1 in 2 Canadians (45% of men and 43% of women) is expected to develop cancer during their lifetime and approximately 1 out of 4 Canadians (26% of men and 23% of women) is expected to die from cancer. (Canada Cancer society)
Based on research from the New England Medical Journal of 45,000 twins it was identified that 85% of cancers are caused by environmental factors, including diet and lifestyle. Humankind has invented 10 million new chemicals and unwittingly released thousands of these into our environment, many of which are known as carcinogens. In fact, the growth in the incidence of cancer parallels the industrialization and chemicalization of our world, which is why we are likely seeing the ongoing rise of cancer rates over the last century(1) .
Specific to the impact of nutrition, the World Cancer Research fund indicated that eating the right diet may cut your risk of cancer by up to 40%. The key organs that help to fight off cancer are your liver and your immune system, so nutrition support to help these organs function at their best is important. We also want to help create a terrain within our bodies that is not conducive to cancer growth, which includes having a more alkaline state.
So, let’s have a look at what dietary changes you can make to help reduce your risk of getting cancer:
1. Consume at least 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (ideally organic to reduce chemical exposure). You should also include a rainbow of colours to ensure you are consuming a wide-range of cruciferous vegetables daily, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale helps support the liver the key organ in helping to combat cancer.Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which extensive research is showing can help treat and prevent cancer. In a scientific review of 206 human and 22 animal studies it was shown that greater fruit and vegetable intake has a protective effect with cancers of the stomach, esophagus, lung, oral cavity, pharaynx, endomedtrium, pancreas and colon (2). We must also consider that cancer thrives in a low-oxygen, acidic environment (Cancer Research Journal 2006) and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, is great way to help increase the pH levels in the blood which puts the body in a more alkalinize state making it a more difficult environment for cancer cells to grow. Where as grains, coffee and sugars lower pH levels making the body more acidic so these foods should be avoided.
2. Reduce red meat intake including beef, pork, lamb and goat and processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, deli meats. Red meat is acidic to the body which creates an environment conducive to cancer growth. The World Cancer Research Fund recommended if you do eat red meat this should be limited to at most 500 grams a week). One study found that women who ate red meat every day had a 56% increase risk of breast cancer (4). Plus, research shows that people that consume higher amounts of red meat are at greater risk of stomach, pancreatic and breast cancer(3). Red meat consumption in countries that inject growth hormones and other hormones to increase milk supply can increase the risk of hormone-based cancers such as breast and prostate.
If you are consuming red meat opt for organic, grass-fed beef, lamb or game, as these meats are less inflammatory than their factory-farmed counterparts. Maintaining a focus on lean organic, free-range eggs, poultry and game, wild-caught fish, and vegetable-based proteins is important.
Processed meats contain N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), which can damage DNA and contribute to cancer development. High cooking temperatures may produce additional carcinogens in meats. You should especially avoid chargrilled meat on the BBQ and frying as this is creates well-known carcinogens and increases the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer. A healthier cooking option is frying foods in a little water as opposed to oils, which often become rancid at high heats.
3. Avoid sugar. Cancer cells usually grow quickly, and multiply at fast rates, which takes a lot of energy – this means they need lots of glucose. Cancer cells thrive on sugar. In fact, individuals with type 2 diabetes have three times the risk of developing cancer. A diet rich in sugary foods and beverages can lead to obesity, which significantly raises your risk of cancer (5). Cancer Research UK reports eating high amounts of sugar over time can cause you to gain weight, and robust scientific evidence shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer. Obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.
Additionally, sugar is acidic to the body and cancer tends to thrive in acidic environments. Diets high in sugar increase inflammation in your body and may lead to insulin resistance, both of which increase cancer risk (6). A study in over 430,000 people found that added sugar consumption was positively associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, pleural cancer and cancer of the small intestine (7).
4. Limit Alcohol
Alcohol is one of the top three causes of cancer deaths worldwide. Last year, it is estimated that as many as 10,700 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer linked to their alcohol consumption (Canadian Cancer Society). A survey showed that 60% of Ontario women and 41% of Ontario men exceed the alcohol consumption guidelines recommended by the Canadian Cancer Society.
The National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services lists consumption of alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen. The evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks—particularly the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time—the higher his or her risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer. Both light drinkers (those who have no more than one drink per day) and binge drinkers have an increased risk of some cancers (8-12).
Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of mouth and throat, larynx, oesophagus, breast, liver and bowel cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that women have less than one standard drink per day and men have less than two standard drinks per day.
While there’s no one thing any of us can do (or not do) to ensure with certainty that we don’t develop cancer, there are many diet and lifestyle changes that we can make as individuals in order to give ourselves the best chance possible of a long and healthy life!
Download our free 1-day cancer preventative meal plan as a kick-start to altering your diet in a way that will help prevent the development of cancer.
If you want to take things a step further, we would love to meet with you one-on-one to complete a thorough assessment to help determine your risk of developing cancer and help educate you about diet and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk.
- Waller “the disease of civilization” Ecologist, 1970:1(2)
- Nothlings and L.N Kolonel “Risk factors for Pancreatic cancer in the Hawaii-Los Angeles Multiethnic cohort study Hawaii Medical Journal, 2006 Jan,:65 (1):26-8
- F Taylor , et al “meat conusmtoion and risk of breast cancer in the UK Womens Cohort Dtudy” British Jounral of Cancer, 2007, April 10;96 (7): 1139-46
- Bagnardi V, Rota M, Botteri E, et al. Light alcohol drinking and cancer: a meta-analysis. Annals of Oncology 2013; 24(2):301-308. [PubMed Abstract]
- Bagnardi V, Rota M, Botteri E, et al. Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: a comprehensive dose-response meta-analysis. British Journal of Cancer 2015; 112(3):580-593. [PubMed Abstract]
- Cao Y, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci EL. Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ 2015; 351:h4238. [PubMed Abstract]
- Chen WY, Rosner B, Hankinson SE, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk. JAMA 2011; 306(17):1884-1890. [PubMed Abstract]
- White AJ, DeRoo LA, Weinberg CR, Sandler DP. Lifetime alcohol intake, binge drinking behaviors, and breast cancer risk. American Journal of Epidemiology 2017; 186(5):541-549. [PubMed Abstract]