Is there such a thing as a cancer-fighting food? Can certain foods prevent cancer? Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” Study shows there is no food that can stop cancer in its tracks or bring your risk of developing cancer to zero. Eating healthy food can reduce your risk, but it won’t eliminate it.
“There are many different causes for cancer,” says Lindsey Wohlford, wellness dietitian. “Research tells us that making healthy food choices consistently over time can reduce your risk of getting cancer, but you can’t say with absolute certainty that food can prevent cancer. There are no guarantees.”
A research conducted and published on medicalnewstoday shows how many factors can contribute to the development of chronic diseases, which includes certain types of cancer. Adding that the link between diet and cancer risk is complicated. However, certain dietary patterns and food choices do have associations with an increased risk of cancer.
Researchers have predicted that cancer will become the leading cause of death in every country in the world by the end of this century, making cancer prevention a top priority in the healthcare field.
Although many factors can influence a person’s risk of developing cancer, research shows that environmental causes, including dietary choices can also affect cancer risk.
In the early 1960s, researchers discovered that cancer rates varied between countries and identified that specific dietary patterns have correlations with certain types of cancer.
They also discovered that cancer rates in people from countries with a low cancer risk who migrated to countries with higher cancer risk matched or exceeded the cancer rates in the country they migrated to. This suggests that diet and lifestyle strongly impacted cancer development.
Since then, several researchers have narrowed down the specific foods and dietary patterns that may increase the risk of certain cancers.
This article will focus primarily on food, yet it is important to remember that alcohol intake is also a known dietary risk factor for cancer development.
Research into diet and cancer risk is ongoing, and researchers still have much to learn about how and why food choices affect cancer risk.
Scientists know there is a strong link between processed meat intake and certain types of cancer.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified processed meat as carcinogenic and unprocessed red meat as “probably” carcinogenic.
A 2018 review found that increasing intake of processed meat up to about 60 grams (g) per day and red meat up to 150 g per day increased colorectal cancer risk by about 20 per cent.
Diets high in processed and red meat also have associations with an increased risk of other cancers, including stomach cancer and breast cancer.
Compounds created during high-temperature cooking and smoking processes can cause cellular damage, which can initiate the development of cancerous cells. The heme iron found in red and processed meats may also have a toxic effect on cells.
Ultra-processed foods often contain ingredients that result from industrial processing, such as protein isolates, hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavor enhancers, artificial sweeteners, and thickeners.
Examples of ultra-processed foods and beverages include ultra-processed sweet and savory snack foods, soda and energy drinks, breakfast cereals, reconstituted meat products, frozen pizzas, candy, and more.
According to health experts, diets high in ultra-processed foods, including Western diets, significantly increase the risk of certain cancers.
A 2018 study that included data on almost 105,000 people found that increasing the dietary proportion of ultra-processed foods by 10 per cent had associations with a significant 12 per cent increased risk of overall cancer and an 11 per cent increased chance of developing breast cancer.
Ultra-processed foods are rich in saturated fat, added sugar, and salt but low in protective nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Ultra-processed foods also contain potentially carcinogenic compounds formed during processing, such as heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Certain food additives and contamination by chemicals from food packaging may also contribute to the increased cancer risk associated with the consumption of ultra-processed food.
Also, eating high-salt foods may lead to the production of N-nitroso compounds (NOCs). The IARC has classified many of these as “probably” carcinogenic to humans.
Diets high in added salt have associations with an increased risk of certain cancers, including stomach cancer and esophageal cancer.
Lindsey Wohlford added that before you head to the store, plan to fill your fridge with vegetables, fruits and whole grains, know that you won’t eliminate your cancer risk by eating certain foods. But if you focus on eating a plant-based diet and maintaining a healthy weight, you will go a long way in reducing your risk.