Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United
States; approximately 500,000 Americans will die each year
from some form of the disease. Cancer can occur almost anywhere
in the body, and individual diseases are named based on the
tissue of origin. For example, carcinoma is the name given
to cancers of the skin.
Cancer is an abnormal, uncontrolled growth pattern of cells
often leading to tumors, anomalous clusters of cells. When
the cells spread from the original site to places around the
body it is called metastasis.
Cancer develops when the genetic material of a cell is changed
or damaged in a way that allows the cell to grow and divide
uncontrollably. A variety of things can cause this change,
sometimes called a mutation, including chemicals (such as
benzene or certain pesticides), viruses (such as RSV or Epstein-Barr),
or radiation (from X-rays or exposure to nuclear material).
Additionally, several lifestyle and dietary factors have been
implicated as promoting cancer in humans. Smoking, exposure
to the sun, and being overweight have been linked with certain
types of cancer. There are many other factors that have been
discussed as promoting or helping to prevent cancer. Additional
research is needed to help tease out the effects of all of
the different factors that impact humans each day and across
It is very clear that diet seems to have at least some impact
on cancer risk. What isn’t known is exactly which foods,
at which amounts, delivering which nutrients or chemicals
help to delay or encourage the onset of cancer – or
how these nutrients or chemicals actually do their work. Also
unknown: how age of life, general health status, overall body
weight, and other lifestyle factors contribute to the effects
Reduction of cancer risk by diet does not depend on any single
factor, but requires an overall change in eating patterns
and food preparation methods. The American Cancer Society
has issued the following guidelines for cancer prevention:
|Eat a variety of healthful
foods, with an emphasis on plant sources.
||Eat at least five servings
of a wide variety of brightly colored vegetables and fruits
Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined)
grains and sugars. At least half of your grains and grain
products should be whole.
Limit consumption of red meats, especially those high
in fat and processed. Consider adding fish to your diet.
Choose foods that maintain a healthful weight.
|Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
||Adults: Engage in at least
moderate activity for 30 minutes or more on 5 or more
days of the week; 45 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous
activity on 5 or more days per week may further enhance
reductions in the risk of breast and colon cancer.
Children and adolescents:
Engage in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous
physical activity at least 5 days per week.
|Maintain a healthful weight
||Balance caloric intake
with physical activity.
Lose weight if currently overweight or obese. If you drink
alcoholic beverages, limit consumption.
Additionally, it is suggested that avoiding charred and salted
meats, consuming fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and choosing
brightly colored fruits and vegetables may also help decrease
the risk of cancer.
The American Cancer Society has more information about food
and physical activity, as it relates to cancer, at: