An unfortunate reality is that many people will get some form of cancer during their lifetimes. But there are real lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of getting cancer. One of the biggest places you can make an impact is your diet. Eating certain foods can help to keep you healthy while others may actually increase your risk of cancer.
- Written by Christian Simmons
Christian Simmons is a writer for RetireGuide and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®). He covers Medicare and important retirement topics. Christian is a former winner of a Florida Society of News Editors journalism contest and has written professionally since 2016.Read More
- Edited ByLamia Chowdhury
Lamia Chowdhury is a financial content editor for RetireGuide and has over three years of marketing experience in the finance industry. She has written copy for both digital and print pieces ranging from blogs, radio scripts and search ads to billboards, brochures, mailers and more.Read More
- Published: July 15, 2022
- Updated: August 2, 2022
- 9 min read time
- This page features 5 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
Foods That Prevent Cancer
Cancer is a serious issue that affects many people every year. According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 2 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022.
But cancer may be more tied to what you eat than you think. According to the World Health Organization, as much as 40% of all cancer diagnoses can be attributed to lifestyle factors, including what you eat.
Opting for certain foods and filling your diet with healthy options such as fruits and vegetables can make a big difference in staying healthy during your retirement life. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) identified many foods that help to prevent cancer and, unsurprisingly, they are mainly the foods you should be eating anyway to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Tomatoes: A healthy vegetable to include in your diet. The AICR cites it as a major source of lycopene, which can possibly help prevent cancer.
- Garlic: There is some evidence that eating garlic can reduce your risk of cancer.
- Citrus Fruits: This category includes things such as oranges and grapefruits, which can offer access to important vitamins.
- Carrots: A well-known cancer preventer with several health benefits when eaten regularly.
- Broccoli: According to the AICR, broccoli can possibly help lower the risk of prostate cancer.
- Berries: Offer a wide range of health benefits and can help to strengthen the body against cancer.
Fish can be an excellent and healthy source of protein that also helps to lower your risk of some cancers and promote healthy aging. The main reason behind this is that fish is a good source of some of the nutrients that you need to stay healthy.
Omega-3 fatty acids in particular are an important nutrient to add to your diet.
A National Library of Medicine study even found that people who regularly eat fish were significantly less likely to develop gastrointestinal cancer than those who didn’t.
Nuts & Seeds
Eaten in moderation, nuts and seeds are another food that often make sense as part of a healthy diet. So it’s no surprise that they can also play a role in preventing some types of cancer.
The AICR found that eating some types of nuts and seeds — such as flaxseed which is an excellent source of fiber that can help lower your risk of cancer — provide numerous cancer-preventing benefits, including reducing oxidative stress that leads to some forms of cancer.
Beans provide a great and healthy source of cancer-preventing nutrients. Incorporating them into your regular diet can help to keep you healthy and potentially prevent some types of cancer.
They are also a good source of fiber as well.
The science behind it is not entirely understood yet, but according to the National Library of Medicine, a review of 45 independent studies found that those who consume more olive oil have up to a 31% lower risk of cancer. The report indicated olive oil provided “significant protection … for breast, overall gastrointestinal, upper aerodigestive and urinary tract cancer.”
If you’re looking to get olive oil into your diet, consider cooking with it or drizzling it on salads.
Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrients and a key part of a cancer-prevention diet. According to the AICR, whole grains are far more beneficial than refined grains and provide much-needed fiber.
In fact, a study conducted by the AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund found that eating approximately three servings of whole grains daily reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 percent.
Some spices may be able to help decrease your risk of cancer as well. A National Library of Medicine study found that cinnamon in particular can be effective.
The study showed that cinnamon has numerous anti-cancer properties. Turmeric is another excellent spice to incorporate into your diet. It can potentially help prevent cancer as well as numerous other health issues.
While there are many foods to incorporate into your diet to help lower your risk of cancer, there are many areas that you will need to work on cutting back on as well.
Just as much as food can prevent cancer, it can help cause it as well. Maintaining a diet of unhealthy and high-risk foods could seriously impact your likelihood of getting cancer at some point in your life.
Processed meats are a very common part of many American diets. But added preservatives and modifications that make the meats count as processed can have potentially serious health concerns, including cancer. The World Health Organization has found strong evidence that eating ham, bacon, salami and hot dogs regularly increase your risk of bowel and stomach cancer.
If you’re looking to prevent cancer with a healthy diet, then you may have to seriously cut back on red meat. Lean meats like poultry and seafood do not come with additional cancer risks and can be an all-around healthy option.
But red meat, especially in excess, can increase your risk of cancer as well as other health conditions. As is the case with many types of food, moderation is key.
Fast and Fried Foods
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but both fast and fried foods pose a cancer risk. They are simply not healthy to consume regularly, packing in lots of calories with virtually no nutrients.
Eating this type of food regularly can lead to you not getting the senior nutrition that you need, which can play a role in numerous health conditions including cancer.
Much like processed meats, processed foods do pose a cancer risk, in part due to the added preservatives or salts that make them processed.
Eating these foods often — and in place of more natural options — can lead to serious health issues down the road. Anything that includes empty calories can be a risk to eat regularly.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every single type of alcoholic drink is linked to cancer, from beer to whiskey.
Cancers that can be caused by drinking alcohol include mouth, throat, esophagus, colon and liver cancer, among others. As with other risk factors, moderation is key. But regular drinking can potentially lead to cancer.
Dairy is one of the types of food that falls into the category of not necessarily bad for you unless you are consuming too much of it. Dairy is fine in moderation and is a common part of many Americans’ diets.
But consuming excessive amounts of dairy has shown to potentially put you at a higher risk of developing certain cancers. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, studies have linked dairy to a higher risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.
Consuming too much dairy can also lead to other health issues like heart disease.You certainly don’t need to cut dairy from your diet entirely, but be mindful of how prevalent it is in what you eat. In fact, some studies even found that dairy may reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates
Once again, sugar and refined carbohydrates do not necessarily directly cause cancer. But consuming them regularly can lead to other health conditions that could put you at higher risk for cancer.
Eating sugary foods all the time is not good for your health and can cause a number of problems down the road. But it also is not something that you need to cut from your diet entirely to remain healthy.
Cancer Prevention Diet Plans
You don’t necessarily need a special diet in order to prevent cancer. All it takes are simple choices like eating healthier foods and cutting back on junk and fast food. The healthier foods you put into your body, the more likely you are to remain healthy.
But if you prefer the rigidity and guidance of a diet, here are some options that can possibly help to reduce your risk of cancer.
As you may have been able to tell from the name, the Mediterranean diet is based on eating the types of foods available to people who live along the Mediterranean, since these foods tend to be healthy and nutrient-rich.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating lots of healthy proteins such as seafood while pairing it with nutritious side foods such as nuts, fruits and vegetables.
The diet is an easy and effective way to encourage yourself to eat healthy, cancer-preventing foods. But remember that portion control and calorie-counting is still up to you. Even healthy foods can present a problem if you are eating far too much of it.
“Eat the Rainbow”
Eating the rainbow essentially refers to the idea of eating lots of fruits and vegetables daily. The name comes from the idea that you should strive to eat a fruit or vegetable of a different color each day.
The colors themselves don’t really matter, but it’s an easy way to remind yourself to eat a variety of different healthy foods.
You obviously should not eat only fruits or vegetables, and this is more of a guideline to food diversity than a legitimate diet.
Limit Added Sugars and Reduce Salt Intake
Another simple dieting plan is to put a limit on how much added sugars and salt you are consuming in a day. The easiest way to cut back on these is to lower your junk-food intake.
Processed foods are rich with added sugars and sodium. It’s what makes them taste so good after all.
But these types of food give you much more sugar and salt than you need to be healthy without many other accompanying nutrients.
Consciously cutting back in these areas can make a real difference.
Take Vitamins and Dietary Supplements
Many people need to take either vitamins or dietary supplements on a daily basis. There’s nothing wrong with getting an easy additional boost to your nutrition as part of your diet.
Sometimes, it isn’t easy to get the nutrients we need through food alone, so vitamins and supplements can help make up the difference. Check with your doctor about what, if anything, you should be taking.
5 Cited Research Articles
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, January 31). Alcohol and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/alcohol/index.htm
- National Library of Medicine. (2014, November 7). Fish consumption and risk of gastrointestinal cancers: A meta-analysis of cohort studies. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4223275/
- American Institute for Cancer Research. (n.d.). AICR’s Foods that Fight Cancer and Foods to Steer Clear of, Explained. Retrieved from https://www.aicr.org/cancer-prevention/food-facts/
- Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Preventing Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/cancer/preventing-cancer/
- National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Cancer Stat Facts: Common Cancer Sites. Retrieved from https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/common.html