Nutrition and physical activity and their role in cancer prevention

The cause of some cancers can sometimes be a mystery, but the American Institute on Cancer Research has come up with 10 recommendations to protect yourself from getting ill.

Hearing about cancer diagnosis more frequently, it is difficult to find someone whose life has not been affected by this disease in some way. There are many factors than can either increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing cancer. Based on a panel of world-renowned experts and review of over 7,000 studies, the American Institute on Cancer Research www.aicr.org has come up with 10 recommendations to reduce the risk of cancer.

  1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight: Increased body fat increases the risk of esophageal, pancreatic, colon, rectal, endometrial, kidney and post-menopausal breast cancer. Limiting portion sizes is an effective way to help maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day: Physical activity can help protect against colon, endometrial and post-menopausal breast cancer. Even household chores including mopping the floors, raking leaves, mowing the lawn with a push mower or washing your car by hand can be a great source of physical activity.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in sugar and fat and low in fiber: Energy-dense foods have more calories and tend to be low in fiber. Although choosing 100 percent fruit juice is a better choice than soda, juice is high in natural sugar and contains almost as many calories as soda.
  4. Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes: A varied diet including these foods can help protect against prostate, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophageal, stomach, lung and colon cancer. Make your plate at least two-thirds veggies, fruit and whole grains.
  5. Limit consumption of red meats, such as beef, pork and lamb, and avoid processed meats: Eating less than 18 ounces of red meat per week decreases the risk of colorectal cancer. Try to stay away from processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, bacon and lunch meat. Choose fish or boneless, skinless chicken or turkey instead.
  6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women per day: A drink is considered five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor. Alcohol can actually cause cancer if consumed in excess, so it is not recommended to start drinking if you don’t already.
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium): Choose foods naturally low in sodium. Read food labels to keep a running tally throughout the day to make sure that no more than 2,400 milligrams per day is consumed.
  8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer: Dietary supplements are not approved by the FDA and have not been proven safe or effective.
  9. It’s best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for six months and then add other liquids and solid foods: Breastfeeding helps protect against breast cancer and has many other benefits for mom and baby.

For more information about food and health or chronic disease contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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