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You CAN Reduce Your Risk of Cancer with These Eight Diet Changes

diet changes to reduce cancer risk

We don’t always know what causes cancer, but research shows that we can have a significant impact on reducing our risk with some simple lifestyle changes. Take a look at these eight diet recommendations and see how you can work them into your daily life today.


Many types of cancer have links to lifestyle factors that we can control. The most obvious of these is smoking. Other bad habits of ours can have an impact as well – including our weight, our diet and our amount of physical activity. Adhering to the guidelines set forth by leading cancer organizations can reduce our risk of cancer.

Lindsay Kohler MPH of the University of Arizona says, “Behaviors such as poor diet choices, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption and unhealthy body weight could account for more than 20 percent of cancer cases, and could, therefore, be prevented with lifestyle modifications.”

She adds that when you consider tobacco exposure, we could potentially reduce our risk of cancer by two-thirds!

Even small changes make an impact. For example, in one study considered, women who followed at least five of the recommendations were 60 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who met none of the recommendations. For each additional recommendation met, the risk was reduced by 11%.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends the following

1. Reach a Healthy Body Weight.
It is known that obesity contributes to an increased risk of several forms of cancer. Reaching your ideal weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise is very important to reducing your risk.

2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
In addition to working in exercise into your daily routine, also limit sedentary habits such as watching too much television and surfing the net.

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3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
Sodas and sugar-containing beverages are not very filling so in addition to the excess calories they directly provide, they also tend to make you want to eat more. “Energy dense foods” are those that are heavily processed – with added fat or sugar.

4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
Summer is here and with it a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Head out to your local farmer’s market today and pick up some produce and create a healthy meal for you and your family.

5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
Red meats and processed meats are particularly linked to colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the US.

6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
There is convincing evidence that alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and breast, as well as colorectal cancer in men.

7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
High sodium foods not only contribute to high blood pressure and cardiovascular concerns, but there is also evidence that it can affect cancer risk as well. Try to avoid fast foods, which are typically heavily salted as well.

8. Don't use supplements to protect against cancer.
Get your nutrition from whole foods. While individual nutrients may have some benefit in cancer protection, we just do not know what higher doses will do. It is just best to eat nutritious foods in their natural form.

Journal Reference:
Lindsay N. Kohler, David O. Garcia, Robin B. Harris, Eyal Oren, Denise J. Roe, and Elizabeth T. Jacobs. Adherence to Diet and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention Guidelines and Cancer Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, June 2016 DOI:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-16-0121

Additional Reference:
American Institute for Cancer Research, http://www.aicr.org/

Photo Credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons



As noted here, cancer relates to many risk factors. Therefore, pinning the blame on any one set of products is inaccurate and unproductive. Soft drinks, which come in low- and no-calorie options, can be enjoyed in moderation, just like other sources of calories. As the body of science shows, these beverages are safe and can be incorporated into a sensible diet and active life.