Applying the Precautionary Principle to Nutrition and Cancer
By Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.
Research continues to show, time and time again, that plant-based foods reduce the risk of cancer and strengthen the chance of survival after diagnosis.
While more research is needed in this area, we now have a set of six precautionary principles to reduce the risk of occurrence:
1) Avoid dairy products to reduce risk of prostate cancer.
2) Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast.
3) Avoid red and processed meat to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.
4) Avoid grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.
5) Women should consume soy products in adolescence to reduce risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors should consume soy products to reduce risk of cancer recurrence and overall mortality.
6) Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several forms of cancer.
Diets that center around plant sources—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes—are associated with lower cancer risk, as well as reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
Plant-based diets support a healthy weight, which in itself reduces the risk of many common forms of cancer. Especially good plant sources include cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage; carotenoid vegetables, including carrots and sweet potatoes; tomato products; and allium vegetables, such as onions, garlic, and leeks.
The background: Antioxidants in plants may reduce the spread of tumors and help repair damaged DNA. Some components in soybeans, green tea, turmeric, grapes, tomatoes, and other plant foods have the ability to regulate apoptosis, an important pathway for cancer prevention.
The good news? You can do no harm, only good, by eating a diet rich in plant-based foods.