Today is World Cancer Day. The target focus of this year’s campaign is dispelling damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer.
There are no shortages of myths and misconceptions when it comes to diet and cancer.
Here are a few commonly heard diet and cancer myths that have been disproved by the American Institute for Cancer Research:
- “Natural products are best for preventing and treating cancer” – False, the term natural means nothing, it is not a legally definable term in the US; natural products may be a helpful adjunct to other cancer therapies, but mixing can supplements with cancer treatments can also be risky
- “Sugar feeds cancer” – False, sugar is used by all cells in the body for energy, including cancer cells; sugar can increase cancer risk because it contributes to excess weight gain, but that’s it
- “Microwaving food in plastic wrap causes releases cancer-causing dioxins” – False, there are no dioxins in plastic wrap in the US; follow manufacturer recommendations and avoid food contact with wrap if microwaving
- “Reusing plastic water bottles causes cancer” – False, this has never been substantiated in any published research
So what can you do to help prevent cancer? Not surprisingly, a LOT of it has to do with your diet.
Check out these 10 steps for cancer prevention, drawn from the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research’s Second Expert Report:
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day
- Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods
- Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans
- Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats
- If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium)
- Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer
- It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods
- After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention
Bumping up your fiber intake, while good for lots of health reasons, also appears to help prevent against certain types of cancer.
While the degree of the protective effect is often argued about, one thing is for sure – more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, certainly don’t increase your cancer risk.
So this World Cancer Day, get out there and spread the word – that a well-balanced diet, along with other healthy lifestyle factors, is your best bet for preventing cancer.