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Nutrition & Its Relationship With Cancer

Cancer is recognized worldwide to be a major health problem affecting millions of people each year. More than 1 million people in the United States alone get cancer each year, and as of 2009, a total of 562,340 deaths from cancer were projected to occur in the United States yearly. The good news is that there are certain foods — so-called cancer-fighting foods — that can help combat cancer.

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Cancer is a systemic disease with various causes, some of which include a poor diet, toxin exposure, nutrient deficiencies and to some extent genetics. One extremely important way to prevent and/or treat cancer is nutritionally, through eating a nutrient-dense diet full of cancer-fighting foods and avoiding things that are known to increase cancer risk. 

Ingredients found in ultra-processed foods are being blamed for everything health-related, from cancer and diabetes to reduced kidney function and bone loss. Only adding to the confusion, sometimes even the way we cook otherwise-healthy foods puts them in the cancer-causing foods category while not consuming enough cancer-fighting foods.

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Unfortunately, until food manufacturers are forced to clean up the ingredients they use in their products, it’s up to us to avoid the worst kinds and to choose cancer-fighting foods. Researchers have known about the dangers associated with some unhealthy habits and cancer-causing foods for decades, while others are just now emerging as possible culprits. 

What does work when it comes to lowering inflammation and fighting free radical damage?

The key is consuming plenty of cancer-fighting foods with antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. This means avoiding packaged and processed foods and focusing on only those that do not contain antibiotics, chemicals or toxins. Buying foods that are organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised and additive-free can greatly lower the toxic load of your diet.

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Findings from the 2010 European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) that looked at dietary factors associated with higher cancer risks showed that there’s significant associations between cancer risk and low intakes of certain nutrients. (1) Data from the investigation that was published in the European Journal of Cancer showed an inverse association between higher intakes of vitamin C, carotenoids, retinol, α-tocopherol and fiber with overall cancer risk.

After following over 519,978 participants living in 10 European nations, results showed that those who most closely followed a style of eating similar to the Mediterranean diet had the most protection against cancer. High intake of cancer-fighting foods like vegetables, fruit, fish, calcium-rich foods and fiber was associated with a decreased risk of colorectal, lung and breast cancers, while red and processed meat intake, alcohol intake, unhealthy body mass index (BMI), and abdominal obesity were associated with an increased risk. Being physically active and obtaining enough vitamin D also helped lower cancer susceptibility.

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Foods and Habits that Increase Your Cancer Risk

Inflammation is the underlying issue that dictates cancerous tumor initiation, progression and growth. Studies suggest that 30 percent to 40 percent of all kinds of cancer can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and dietary measures! (2) And other sources claim that this number is in fact much higher, with around 75 percent of cancer cases being lifestyle-related.

Top 5 Cancer-Causing Foods

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  1. Processed Meats
  2. Fried, Burnt and Overly Cooked Foods
  3. Added Sugar
  4. Foods High in Additives
  5. Rice Products

Top 12 Cancer-Fighting Foods

  1. Leafy Green Vegetables (Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens, Arugula, & Watercress)
  2. Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage or Brussels sprouts)
  3. Berries (Blueberries, Raspberries, Cherries, Goji Berries, Camu Camu)
  4. Brightly Orange-Colored Fruits and Veggies (Citrus Fruits, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, etc.)
  5. Fresh Herbs and Spices (Turmeric, Cayenne, Ginger, Garlic, Basil)
  6. Organic Meats
  7. Cultured & Fermented Dairy Products (Yogurt, Kefir)
  8. Nuts and Seeds (Chia Seed, Flaxseed, Hemp Seed)
  9. Healthy Unrefined Oils (Coconut, Flax, Cod Liver and Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  10. Mushrooms (Reishi, Cordyceps and Maitake)
  11. Traditional Teas (Matcha, Green tea, Herbal teas)
  12. Wild-Caught Fish (Salmon, Mackerel and Sardines)
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Other Ways to Increase Effectiveness of An Anti-Cancer Diet

  1. Lower Your Toxin Load
  • Electromagnetic Waves: Cell phones, TV’s, computer screens, microwaves
  • Commercial Health and Beauty Products
  • Chemical Household Cleaners
  • Unnecessary Medications
  • Plastics
  1. Drink Clean Water (add water filters to your home)
  1. Cook Foods at Lower Temperatures and Avoid Burnt Food
  1. Avoid Processed Grains and Added Sugar
  1. Use Essential Oils
  • Frankincense essential oil (Boswellia serrata) helps boost the immune system
  1. Get Enough Sunshine and Vitamin D
  1. Boost Detoxification with Supplements and Herbs
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3 fatty acid)
  • Chlorella, Blue-green algae and Spirulina
  • CLA: Conjugated linoleic acid
  • Folate/Vitamin B9
  • Melatonin

Precautions Regarding An Anti-Cancer Diet and Cancer-Fighting Foods

The quality of your diet is linked to your overall health and ability to prevent cancer. However other factors are also important for cancer-prevention, such as exercising, toxin exposure, not smoking or consuming too much alcohol, sleeping well and controlling stress. A variety of foods can be included in an anti-cancer diet, and your diet doesn’t need to be “perfect” to be healthy. Start by making one or two changes at a time to your diet, removing foods that you consume a lot of but that are known to increase cancer risk.


(NIH) National Institutes of Health