Preventing Cancer with Diet and Exercise


diet and exerciseOver 90 per cent of cancers are preventable, says a mammoth new report which focuses on the part that diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity play in causing cancer.

The American Association For Cancer Research says the “war on cancer” has been a “qualified failure,” with cancer the second highest cause of death in the US after heart disease at 23 per cent.

But while heart disease deaths have been steadily falling, there has been little change in the cancer death rate in the last 40 years. (Similar statistics apply in other Western nations.)

By 2020 the report notes, the world population is expected to reach 7.5 billion; of this number, approximately 15 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed, and 12 million cancer patients will die.

Only 5 to 10 per cent of these deaths will be due to genetic defects.  All the rest will have their roots in lifestyle and environmental causes.

Lifestyle Causes of Cancer


Preventable lifestyle causes of cancer include:

  • Smoking – still the biggest single cause of cancer deaths at 33 per cent
  • Diet – 30 to 35 per cent (fried foods, red meat)
  • Infections – 15 – 20 per cent (Viruses like Human papillomavirus, Epstein Barr virus, HIV and others)
  • Exercise, alcohol, stress, sun exposure, radiation and environmental pollution – the rest

And while we have often been warned of how obesity causes heart disease and diabetes, no one talks so much about the fact that obesity is also believed to cause about 20 per cent of the cancers in women and about 14 per cent of male cancers.

Obesity-Related Cancer On Rise

“The cancers that are increasing are the ones that are associated with obesity,” Cancer Association spokesman and cancer epidemiologist Dr Timothy Rebbeck told Atlantic Magazine.

They include cancers of the pancreas, kidney, thyroid, and liver. Being overweight or obese is linked to colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic, and postmenopausal breast cancer.

“These things are not independent of one another, so if you smoke and are overweight and are physically inactive, you have multiple hits,” Rebbeck added.

Obesity Confuses Hormones

The mechanism by which weight influences cancer varies by the type of cancer, but it has to do with the way a skewed body mass index disrupts the body’s hormones, which then go on to disrupt DNA.

“Obesity is also associated with inflammation, and cancer is a disease of inflammation,” Rebbeck said.

Studies have shown that the common denominators between obesity and cancer include neurochemicals; hormones such as insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), insulin, leptin; sex steroids; adiposity; insulin resistance; and inflammation.

How Your Diet Causes Cancer

How diet contributes to cancer is not fully understood, although it is thought most carcinogens are ingested from food, food additives, or from cooking. Problem substances include nitrates, nitrosamines, pesticides, and dioxins.

The types of cancers caused by diet vary widely, with as many as 70% of colorectal cancer cases related to diet.

The main offenders:

  • Red Meat:

Heavy consumption of red meat is a risk factor for gastrointestinal tract cancers, but also for colorectal, prostate, bladder, breast, gastric), pancreatic, and oral cancers.

  • Cooking Methods

It is thought substances produced during the cooking of meat (heterocyclic amines) are carcinogens. Charcoal cooking and/or smoke curing of meat produces harmful carbon compounds such as pyrolysates and amino acids, which have a strong cancerous effect.

Nitrites and nitrates are used as preservatives in meat; however, they are powerful carcinogens

Long-term exposure to food additives such as nitrite preservatives and azo dyes has been associated cancer.

  • Dangers Of Plastic Food Containers

Bisphenol from plastic food containers can migrate into food and may increase the risk of breast and prostate cancers. Ingestion of arsenic may increase the risk of bladder, kidney, liver, and lung cancers.

  • Other Food Risk Factors

Saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, and refined sugars and flour present in most foods have also been associated with various cancers.

Several food carcinogens have been shown to activate inflammatory pathways.

How To Life A Cancer Preventing Lifestyle

The report concludes cancer is a preventable disease that requires major life style changes.

Preventing cancer requires:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Eating more fruit and vegetables
  • Moderate use of alcohol,
  • Restricting calories and exercise
  •  Reduce direct exposure to sun
  •  Minimal meat consumption
  • Whole grains
  • Vaccinations
  • Regular checkups

The full report can be found at






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