- Some cancers are genetic, but many are connected to certain lifestyle choices, like smoking and diet.
- One of the simplest ways to reduce your cancer risk is to cut down on certain foods, especially processed meat and packaged convenience foods.
- Here are seven items to avoid.
Some cancers are unavoidable. Cancer can be determined by our genes, and some cases are prompted by environmental factors we have little control over, like air pollution, radiation, or workplace chemicals.
But nearly half of US cancer casesand deaths are linked to preventable risk factors, and scientific research has revealed that it’s possible to lower your chances of getting sick. The biggest cancer-causing culprit is smoking. Being overweight and not getting enough exercise are also major contributors.
One of the simplest, quickest ways to reduce your cancer risk is to cut down on certain foods that we know are linked to more cancer cases.
Here are seven of the riskiest foods:
Eating more processed food can up your cancer risk.
Scientists in France recently zeroed in on a troubling link: people who eat more ultra-processed foods, including items like chips, candy, soda, frozen dinners and instant ramen, develop more cancer than those who cook with raw ingredients at home. So food that comes pre-packaged in plastic wrap or on a microwaveable tray should be eaten only sparingly.
Red meat has a protein that can damage our intestines, making it easier to get colon cancer.
Processed meats like sausage, bacon, and hot dogs can up a person’s cancer risk, especially if they’re eaten on a regular basis.
Eating large quantities of meat that has been salted, cured, or smoked, – like ham, sausage, bacon, and hot dogs – can cause stomach and bowel cancers. That is largely because processed meats are treated with nitrates: chemical additions that help keep the colour of the meat pink and the flavour tasty and salty. The same can even be true of so-called “nitrate free” varieties of processed meat.
Any foods kept in plastic, especially plastic that’s been microwaved or run through the dishwasher, can be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.
Sugar contributes to weight gain, which is a big risk factor for cancer.
Consuming too many sweet drinks and sugary snacks doesn’t just up your odds of developing diabetes, it can also mess with the way our intestinal cells work, making cancer more likely.
The risks of eating too much sugar don’t end when cancer begins – recent research has suggested that sugar can fuel tumour growth in people who already have cancer.
Blackening your food by grilling or charring it can contribute to cancer, too.
When meats like chicken, pork, beef, or fish are cooked or fried at high temperatures, they form compounds called heterocyclic amines, (HCAs), as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds can prompt DNA changes that may increase our cancer risk.
One study suggests that marinating meats first may help: Research from Kansas State University found that marinating meats in spices like rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage can cut down HCAs in a piece of meat by 87%.
The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing cancers of the throat, liver, breast and colon.
Moderation is key: “The more you drink, the higher your risk,” as the National Institutes of Health explains it.
A recent study of alcohol consumers in 195 countries and territories around the world found that more than one in four alcohol-related deaths in people over age 50 are due to cancer.
Fortunately, you can do a lot to curb your risk of developing cancer by eating a healthy diet rich in nutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
In addition to helping you stay full and well nourished, fibrous foods – including whole grains, beans, peas, and seeds – can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer and keep things running smoothly in your digestive system.
Colourful vegetables and fruits like celery, kale, carrots and tomatoes contain beneficial phytochemicals; that’s what gives them bright colours, odours, and flavours. These phytochemicals reduce inflammation and act like ingestible body guards, keeping the things we eat, drink, and breathe from becoming carcinogens. Phytochemicals can also help prevent DNA damage and repair it.
And a daily cup of coffee or green tea can also do a body good.
If you’re more of a tea person, some compelling evidence suggests the green kind, which is rich in plant chemical compounds (polyphenols), might interfere with the way cancer cells like to ruthlessly divide and multiply, while also slowing down blood-vessel formation around tumours.
Cheers to that.
This story was originally published on Feb. 25, 2019. It has been updated.
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