According to the National Cancer Institute, as much as 80 percent of all cancers are due to lifestyle factors that you can change. That means up to 80 percent of all cancer are potentially preventable. Within that 80 percent of potentially preventable cancers, cancer researchers estimated that 35 to 50 are due to foods we consume in our daily diet. That’s an incredible number! No wonder there’s so much research out there about diet and cancer.
Before we look at the latest research, we need a basic understanding of why diet plays a role in cancer development.
Cancer begins as a single abnormal cell that begins to multiply out of control. Groups of these rapidly multiplying cells form tumors that invade healthy tissue. Carcinogens from foods, the air, and even substances made in our own bodies promote the development of tumors.
It takes years for a noticeable tumor to develop. During this time, compounds known as inhibitors can keep the tumor cells from growing. Some vitamins and phytochemicals in plant foods are known to be inhibitors. Dietary fat, particularly saturated fat, is known to be a promoter that encourages the tumor cells multiple quickly.
The latest research is pointing to overall eating patterns – not specific nutrients or foods – as the more important way to view diet and cancer prevention. However, everyday scientists are still seeking to understand the beneficial biological processes specific nutrients or foods seem to promote in the fight against cancer.
Cancer is one of the most feared medical diagnoses and many people who’ve been given this unfortunate news seek out new research and new alternative therapies that may help the fight their tumors. In research, however, no one study ever provides the last word on the subject. Brief reports in the daily news often put too much emphasis on new findings - findings that may contradict previous studies.
It is with this disclaimer and note of caution that I present the most recent research on diet, nutrients and four major cancers (breast, prostate, colorectal and liver).