An estimated 42 percent of cancers are preventable with changes to lifestyle, and diet is a key factor. As many as 80,000 new cancer cases each year are a result of poor diet in the US. A plant-based diet and lifestyle medicine are protective against cancer, can improve cancer treatment outcomes, and could save thousands of lives each year. Discover the foods scientifically proven to help below.
It's estimated there was 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 609,360 cancer deaths in the US in 2022. 1
Approximately 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer within their lifetime.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and increases the risk of developing comorbidities such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Dr Laurie Marbas
In her incredible story, Dr. Tollefson not only shares how she beat her breast cancer diagnosis, but she also provides useful tips for lowering your risk of cancer. She explains how to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, avoid drugs, and manage stress. Dr. Tollefson even provides advice on how to improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels in your daily life.
Dr. Michael Greger discusses which type of diet may best support cancer patients.
Ruth Heidrich, PhD is a young 83 year-old athlete who was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 47. Ruth had been a runner well over a decade, ate what she thought was a healthy diet when the devastating diagnosis came. Ruth shares how with Dr. John McDougall’s help, she refused chemotherapy, radiation, and medical intervention and instead turned to food as her medicine. She completely went to a whole food plant based diet over night.
Association between a pro plant-based dietary score and cancer risk in the prospective NutriNet-santé cohort
This study included 42,544 men and women and looked at their dietary patterns and incidence of cancer. The researchers found that simply by following a plant based diet, these participants had a 15-30% reduction in cancer compared to those who ate diets higher in animal and processed foods 2.
Dairy consumption and risks of total and site-specific cancers in Chinese adults: an 11-year prospective study of 0.5 million people
In this study of 0.5 million people, consuming more dairy was associated with an increased risk of liver cancer, female breast cancer and, possibly, lymphoma 3. In a similar study, men consuming the most dairy compared to those consuming the least had a 62% higher risk of developing prostate cancer4
Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer
In this study, patients with prostate cancer were assigned to a plant-based diet or control group. Those following the plant based diet had significantly inhibited growth of their prostate cancer cells, by almost 8 times compared to the control 5.
An Exercise-Induced Metabolic Shield in Distant Organs Blocks Cancer Progression and Metastatic Dissemination
This study found that exercise protects against the progression and metastasis of existing cancer by reprogramming internal organs. The reprogramming increases the nutrient demand of internal organs and limits nutrient availability to the tumor cells. Exercise was therefore shunting glucose away from the tumor and just like us, without a fuel source cancer cannot continue to grow and function as well making it less likely to spread 6.
Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. It can start almost anywhere in the body.
Our cells are constantly regenerating, we make lots of new cells when the body needs them, which replace old or damaged cells that die. This proper and orderly process can sometimes break down, where instead of dying the old or damaged cells continue to multiply. These cells may then form a lump of tissue called a tumor, which can be cancerous, or not cancerous (benign).
Cancerous tumors invade nearby healthy tissues and travel to other parts of the body to form new tumors, this process is called metastasis. Most cancers form solid tumors but some cancers such as blood cancers, do not form solid tumors.
The term cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases that are all characterized by this same process.
There are over 100 different types of cancer. The most common types of cancer in the US are 1:
Changes to the genes that control how our cells function, specifically how they grow and divide, causes cancer. In reality, cancer is an incredibly complex disease that involves many different processes taking this, but this is the main cause, and as the cancer continues to grow additional changes occur.
The genetic changes that cause cancer happen for several reasons:
These are some of the common signs and symptoms that can appear with cancer:
There are so many different tests a doctor may use to look for and diagnose cancer, and to monitor cancer. These include:
Around the world, approximately 1 million cancer deaths per year are due to poor-quality diets, with 20 million years lost in disability and premature death 7. In the US, A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey study attributed more than 80 000 new cancer cases to a poor diet in 20158. By addressing this root cause with lifestyle interventions, thousands of US lives could be saved, and millions of years lived in good health could be reclaimed.
There is increasingly strong evidence showing that a whole foods, plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle factors can have a positive impact on cancer outcomes and survival. For example, plant-based diets are rich in fiber and are related to a healthier gut microbiome, which significantly impacts the functioning of the immune system. In turn, healthier gut microbiomes can improve the response to certain anti-cancer treatments 9.
Plant-based diets also reduce levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 levels, insulin resistance, and inflammation, all of which are part of cancer progression. Plant foods also have protective elements such as high levels of fiber, phytochemicals, short chain fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals 10.
There is a lack of education on the extent that diet and lifestyle factors impact on cancer risk, a survey found that less than 50% of American adults are aware that processed red meat is a direct cause of cancer and that fruit, vegetables and fiber are protective. It is therefore crucial that medical experts help patients at risk of cancer to understand and implement the ways to reduce our cancer risk, and support patients with cancer to get the best out of their treatment.
Think you or a loved one may be struggling with this? Join today to make a change.
1. Siegel, R. L., Miller, K. D., Fuchs, H. E. & Jemal, A. Cancer statistics, 2022. CA. Cancer J. Clin. 72, 7–33 (2022).
2. Kane-Diallo, A. et al. Association between a pro plant-based dietary score and cancer risk in the prospective NutriNet-santé cohort: Pro-animal/vegetable score and cancer risk. Int. J. Cancer 143, 2168–2176 (2018).
3. Kakkoura, M. G. et al. Dairy consumption and risks of total and site-specific cancers in Chinese adults: an 11-year prospective study of 0.5 million people. BMC Med. 20, 134 (2022).
4. Orlich, M. J. et al. Dairy foods, calcium intakes, and risk of incident prostate cancer in Adventist Health Study–2. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. nqac093 (2022) doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqac093.
5. Ornish, D. et al. INTENSIVE LIFESTYLE CHANGES MAY AFFECT THE PROGRESSION OF PROSTATE CANCER. J. Urol. 174, 1065–1070 (2005).
6. Sheinboim, D. et al. An Exercise-Induced Metabolic Shield in Distant Organs Blocks Cancer Progression and Metastatic Dissemination. Cancer Res. 82, 4164–4178 (2022).
7. Afshin, A. et al. Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet 393, 1958–1972 (2019).
8. Zhang, F. F. et al. Preventable Cancer Burden Associated With Poor Diet in the United States. JNCI Cancer Spectr. 3, pkz034 (2019).
9. Lee, K. A. et al. The gut microbiome: what the oncologist ought to know. Br. J. Cancer 125, 1197–1209 (2021).
10. Shah, U. A. & Iyengar, N. M. Plant-Based and Ketogenic Diets As Diverging Paths to Address Cancer: A Review. JAMA Oncol. (2022) doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.1769.
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