Preventing Cancer With Nutrition

Cancer is the second leading cause of illness and death in the Canada and the United States. Half of all men and one-third of all women in the U.S. will develop cancer during their lifetimes. The causes of cancer aren't clear. Certain cancers appear to run in families, but some forms of the disease may be linked to lifestyle and environmental factors. Since some risk factors are controllable, the best prevention is to keep cancer from starting in the first place.

Although the relationship between nutrition and cancer isn't as clear as nutrition's link to heart disease, one-third of cancer deaths in the United States may be related to how people eat. And diet is one factor you can control. Eat your vegetables -- and fruits! Vegetables and fruits contain beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium. These nutrients are antioxidants, which protect body cells from damage. They also help keep your immune system healthy and may reduce your risk for cancer and other diseases.

Most vegetables and fruits are an excellent source of fiber and phytochemicals, while being low in fat. Lutein, found in broccoli and dark, leafy green vegetables, and lycopene, found in tomatoes, may be among the phytochemicals that play a role in fighting cancer.

Go for legumes and whole grains A diet high in fiber and low in fat may protect you from colon and rectal cancer. Fiber helps move waste through your digestive tract faster so harmful substances don't have much contact time with your intestinal walls.

Try to consume more complex carbohydrate and fiber-rich foods. Choose fruits with edible skins, legumes, vegetables and whole-grain foods. Your goal should be to consume at least two fruit servings, three vegetable servings and three servings of whole-grain breads and cereals every day.

Limit the fat Heart disease is not the only health risk related to a high fat diet. Cancers, including breast, colon and prostate, are also linked to high-fat diets, especially diets high in animal fat. Animal fats are usually high in saturated fat, cholesterol, protein and calories, and lower in fiber. Try consuming foods that are low in fat, especially saturated fat.

Stay physically active and keep trim Maintain your own healthy weight by keeping calories under control. Obesity is linked to cancers of the breast, colon, gallbladder and uterus. The best approach to weight management is to stay physically active, control your portion sizes and choose a diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, moderate in lean sources of protein and low in healthy fats.

Go easy on alcoholic beverages Excessive drinking increases your chances for liver cancer. As with other health problems, moderation is the key -- no more than one drink daily for women and two for men.

Nonfood tips Make your life a "nonsmoking" zone. Smoking is responsible for a major number of cancer deaths in the United States. Although women fear breast cancer, more die each year of lung cancer, linked to cigarette smoking.

Also, limit your exposure to the sun. Too much sun increases the risk for skin cancer. As part of your daily routine, use sun block protection with an SPF of at least 15.

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