Health Break | Published August 15, 2005 | Written by Lori Hughes & Joeleen Davis

Diet And Exercise Can Reduce Cancer Risks

Over the past several weeks, you may have participated in local events to raise money for cancer research. The American Cancer Society hosted two Relay For Life fund- raising events in Centre County this summer. Cancer is a disease that has affected many people. Events like Relay For Life help spread the awareness, as well as encourage those with cancer to survive the illness and inform others of the importance to take steps to try to prevent cancer.

It is estimated that one-half of all men and one-third of all women will develop cancer in their lifetimes. While some types of cancers are linked to family history, others have been linked to diet and lifestyle. Research suggests that up to 35 percent of cancers are related to poor diet.

Is it possible to reduce your risk of cancer? Diet and exercise are strongly linked to cancer risk, and are two things within our control. The American Cancer Society estimates that one-third of the 550,000 annual cancer deaths within the United States are related to physical inactivity and unhealthy diet.

So how much physical activity is enough? It is recommended that adults be at least moderately active for 30 minutes or more five days a week. This could be a brisk 30- minute walk each day. To reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer, even more physical activity may be better.

Being overweight increases the risk of colon, breast, endometrium, esophagus, and kidney cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Making healthy food choices along with physical activity are two key components to reaching a healthy weight.

The American Cancer Society recommends a diet based on plant foods for cancer prevention. Plant based foods like fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants, a key factor in cancer prevention.

The New American Plate by the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that your plate should be made up of two-thirds or more from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans; the remaining one-third or less from animal protein.

When you select meat, select smaller portions (3 oz.) and lean cuts of meat. Limit red meat, especially high fat, processed meats. Remove all the visible fat from meat, and remove the skin from poultry to decrease fat intake.

Research suggests that up to 35 percent of all cancer deaths could be prevented by a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake:

  • • Have seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day

  • Make fruits and vegetables a part of each meal and snack in place of high calorie foods like chips, donuts, cookies and sweets

  • Select juices that are 100 percent juice

  • Limit fried vegetable products, like french fries, snack chips and high fat/calorie dips

Plant-based foods are more that just fruits and vegetables. Select whole grain breads, cereals, pastas and rice. The fiber in plant-based foods may also have a protective effect against mouth, throat and esophageal cancers.

The optimal intake of fiber for cancer prevention is at least 30 to 35 grams per day. It is best to choose fiber rich foods over fiber supplements in order to get the full range of cancer-fighting phytochemicals, also known as plant compounds. Read food labels on foods to compare for the best fiber content.

Take advantage of your diet and lifestyle to reduce your cancer risk. By following most of the guidelines you will not only reduce the risk of cancer, but you will also help prevent countless other illnesses in your lifetime. Not to mention you will look and feel better.

Lori Hughes is a certified dietary manager and diet technician and Joeleen Davis is a registered dietitian and clinical dietitian at Mount Nittany Medical Center.