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Cancer is Indeed Preventable

by Celeste C. Tanchoco, Ph.D. (FNRI

Healthy diet and physical activity are vital to our general health and well-being. It has long been known that the right choices of foods and drinks and healthy lifestyle can protect against heart diseases and many types of cancer. The Diet and Health Recommendation for the Prevention of Cancer from the World Cancer Research Fund’s report on Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer, A Global Perspective, provides practical advice. The recommendations focused on “whole” foods rather than specific dietary constituents and extended to other factors related to diet, including body weight and level of physical activity.

Inhibitors and Promoters of Cancers

The sequence of events that leads to cancer is complex and varied. A combination of genetics, environmental and lifestyle factors are involved in turning a normal cell into an abnormal or damaged cell, and a damaged cell into cancer. Some factors, known as inhibitors, help slow the process down, while other factors, known as promoters can speed up the rate at which the damaged cells multiply and so encourage the development of cancer. Food and drinks contain nutrients and compounds that help the body’s defense system to destroy carcinogens before they damage cells and help prevent cancer. They may also stop or even reverse cancer development at the later stage. These nutrients and compounds are found in abundance in vegetables and fruits and other foods which come from plants. On the other hand, scientific evidence has shown that other foods, if eaten often and in large quantities, as well as certain lifestyle, can increase risk of cancer. In particular, diets high in salt, red meat and meat products, as well as fat and certain lifestyle habits like smoking, and drinking alcohol, have all been linked to a higher risk of certain cancers.

Protecting Ourselves / Why Eat Vegetables and Fruits?

Eating healthy, keeping active and staying at a healthy weight can lower cancer risk by 30 to 40 percent. Taking five or more servings of vegetables and fruits every day could reduce overall cancer rates by more than 20 percent. By modifying the diet and lifestyle and not smoking, the potential to lower cancer risk is 60-70 percent. Vegetables and fruits taste great, are fun to cook and packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a range of other bioactive compounds. Most helpful compounds in the fight against cancer are carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and dietary fiber, all of which are formed in good quantities in plant foods.