According to the American Cancer Society, the average woman has a 38% chance of being diagnosed with some form of cancer during her lifetime. The chance for men is even higher at 43%. Many studies have shown that diet and lifestyle factors play a role in determining whether or not an individual will develop the disease. The following ten foods, available at any supermarket, have special properties that could help to lower your cancer risk.
1. Orange Vegetables
Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and other orange-colored vegetables are rich in carotenoids. These protective antioxidants can prevent free radicals from damaging cells and the DNA inside of cells, either of which can lead to cancerous growth. They also stimulate the production of white blood cells called Natural Killer Cells that have the ability to recognize and destroy cancer cells. An analysis of eight cohort studies on carotenoids and breast cancer including over 7000 participants found that women with higher blood levels of carotenoids have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain substances known as glucosinolates. During digestion, these are broken down into compounds called indoles and isothiocyanates. In rodent studies, these compounds have been found to inhibit the development of colon, breast, lung, bladder, liver and stomach cancer. Laboratory studies on cancer cells show that indoles and isothiocyanates protect cells from DNA damage, inactivate carcinogens and inhibit tumor cell migration.
Raspberries, strawberries, and pomegranates contain a phytochemical called ellagic acid. Several animal studies have found that ellagic acid can inhibit the growth of tumors causes by carcinogens, including lung, esophagus and skin tumors. A recent cell culture study showed that ellagic acid acts to prevent tumors from forming new blood vessels. A clinical study of men with prostate cancer found that drinking pomegranate juice slowed the increase of an antigen in the blood which is used to measure cancer growth.
Also read: 8 Warning Signs of Cervical Cancer
Grape skins are a rich source of resveratrol. This polyphenol modulates pathways that control cell division and growth. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that resveratrol inhibits the proliferation of a wide variety of human tumor cells. Research on rodents has shown that resveratrol can help to foods that prevent cancer of the skin, breast, prostate, colon, and lung. A Swiss case-control study of 971 women found that those who had the highest consumption of grapes had a 50% reduction in breast cancer risk.
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice usually eaten in Asian curries. Its active ingredient is an antioxidant called curcumin. Several laboratory studies have shown that curcumin is able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. Its effects are the strongest effects of bowel cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, and stomach cancer.
A phase I clinical trial on patients with pre-cancerous changes in different organs seemed to show that curcumin could stop these changes from developing into cancer.
6. Dairy products
Dairy products are good sources of calcium, a mineral that can help protect against colorectal cancer. Calcium binds to acids in the gastrointestinal tract and reduces their ability to damage cells in the lining of the colon. An analysis of studies including more than 135,000 participants found that those who had a calcium intake of more than 700 mg per day had a 35% to 45% reduced risk of cancer of the lower part of the colon compared to those who had a calcium intake of 500 mg or less per day. An eight-ounce serving of yogurt has 345 mg of calcium.
Tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant. Lycopene acts to neutralize free radicals that damage cells and cause cancers to develop. Several studies have found that people who eat a diet rich in tomato-based foods that prevent cancer of the lung, stomach, and prostate. In rodent studies, lycopene treatment has been shown to suppress the growth of brain tumors and breast tumors. Cooking tomatoes helps the body to absorb more of the lycopene.
Garlic contains a cancer-fighting organosulfur compound called diallyl disulphide. In laboratory studies, diallyl disulphide has been shown to prevent blood vessel formation within cancer cells, inhibit the growth of tumors and induce cancer cell death. Population studies in various countries have shown an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk for cancers of the colon, stomach, breast, esophagus and pancreas.
9. Oily Fish
Oily fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help to foods that prevent cancer by reducing inflammation in the cells. All cells produce hormones called eicosanoids. An enzyme known as Cox-2 promotes the production of ‘bad’ pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Omega-3 inhibits the action of Cox-2, thereby maintaining cell health. A meta-analysis of 21 studies including 883,585 women found that there was a 14% reduction in breast cancer risk among women with high fish intake. In addition, for every 0.1 gram per day increase in fish, there was a 5% lower risk of breast cancer.
Egg yolks are the best food source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants destroy harmful free radicals generated by exposure to light and help to prevent melanoma by protecting the skin against sun damage. Lutein and zeaxanthin are deposited in breast tissue and may also help protect against breast cancer. A study with 83,234 participants found that premenopausal women with the highest intake of lutein and zeaxanthin (along with beta-carotene and vitamin A) had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer. The association was particularly strong amongst those with an elevated risk due to genetics or alcohol use.