Diet & Cancer: Is there any link?

Diet & Cancer: Is there any link?

Diet & Cancer: Is there any link. The current WHO statistics suggests that food is the leading cause of cancer currently as 35% of all known etiological agents of cancers are from food, exceeding even tobacco.

The current WHO statistics suggests that food is the leading cause of cancer currently as 35% of all known etiological agents of cancers are from food, exceeding even tobacco. This signifies urgency for us to introspect our lifestyle and food habits. According to a research study published in 2011 by the Cancer Research UK, it is concluded that 1 out of 10 cancers may be linked to diet.

It means people who do not take healthy foods & prefer unhealthy diet are at an increased risk of developing cancer. The other factors that may increase the risk of developing cancer include sedentary lifestyle, smoking, drinking, not eating enough fibre, eating too much salt and eating too much red meat.

Red Meat & Processed Meats: High intake of red & processed meat may increase cancer risk, particularly stomach and colon cancers are more common in people who consume lots of red meat (beef, pork, lamb) & processed meat.

The way in which you cook meat – high temperatures, or on barbeque may produce certain chemicals (heterocyclic amines (HCAs) & polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – which are capable of damaging your cells & turning them into cancerous cells. Red & processed meat contains a pigment called haem; this could damage or irritate the cells of the gut, as a result the cells divide more than normal to compensate for this damage.

This in turn, will increase the risk that one of the cells among them could acquire changes and may lead to cancer. According to a study carried out by Stolzenberg – Solomon (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers) & published in Pubmed, “people who eat 100 g of red meat per day have over 3 times the risk of getting stomach cancer. In another study it has been shown that people who eat processed red meat the most have 40-50% of pancreatic cancer risk.

Refined Sugar Sodas : Refined sugar is not safe for consumption as it increases insulin levels and feeds cancer cells. Fructose is the type of refined sugar, which is found in soda and soft drinks is the real danger –it increases cancer risk. Soda, apart from containing refined sugar also contains caramel color – a known carcinogen. Furthermore, soda also acidifies your body & helps cancer cells to multiply. To avoid cancer, limit refined sugars and dump soda.

Hydrogenated Oils: Hydrogenated oil like vegetable oil is the worst oil to have in food – it is no more considered as safe as previously thought. It is known to cause heart disease, cancer and immune systems problems.

French Fries/ Potato Chips: These foods are fried in hydrogenated vegetable oil and are heavily salted – these are really concerning as they increase blood pressure – the processing done at higher temperature produces acrylamide – the known cancer causing agent, which is found in cigarette and other foods. Both French fries & potato chips were found to have higher level of this chemical.

Alcohol : Alcohol can increase the risk of a number of cancers. A recent UK study concluded that alcohol consumed in moderation also increases your risk of cancer. For instance, a woman who drinks 1 to 2 drinks of alcohol may have a slightly increased risk of developing cancer.

Salt : Food additives may increase cancer risk especially when the additives are very salty. In Japan, the incidences of stomach cancer are very common as pickled foods are very popular in Japan. According to several research studies people who eat high amount of salt every day have two-third higher risk of Stomach cancer Excess salt intake can damage the stomach lining resulting in inflammation by making the stomach more sensitive to nitrates. It could also interact with ulcers and Helicobacter pylori resulting in stomach cancers.

To sum it up – it has been estimated that more than two-third of deaths due to cancer across the world are related to diet and lifestyle-related factors. Now, the need of the hour for us is to become more active! Eating well is an important part of improving your health and reducing your cancer risk. Take a good hard look at what you typically eat each day and try these tips to build a healthy diet plan – avoiding the foods mentioned here - for yourself and your family.

The doctor is a MBBS, MD (Gen Medicine), DM (Oncology), PDCRSr. Consultant Medical Oncologist and Hematologist and Chief of Bone Marrow TransplantContinental Cancer Center, Continental Hospitals 040- 67000000

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