While many cancers are linked to genetics, a large body of research has found that what you put in your body may be just as important. Studies have demonstrated how diet can strongly impact cancer risk.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine -- a nonprofit association that promotes preventive medicine -- has released six key dietary guidelines for anyone concerned about their cancer risk. These recommendations were just published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Take a look at their six cardinal rules. You may reconsider what’s for dinner.
Limit dairy products
Low-fat or non-fat dairy foods have valuable nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, but studies find that milk and dairy products may increase risk for a number of cancers, especially cancer of the prostate.
The researchers recommend men make dairy products just an occasional treat. A study of 142,25 men, conducted by researchers for the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, found a 22 percent increased risk of prostate cancer among men who consumed an average of 27 grams of dairy protein per day, compared to those consuming 10 grams per day.
The same study also found a 51 percent increase in fatal prostate cancer among men who took calcium supplements versus those who did not.
Enjoy soy products
The joy of soy! This mighty bean packs a healthy punch, and may reduce the risk for breast cancer recurrence and death. Studies have also found teenage girls who eat a diet rich in soy are less likely to develop breast cancer as adult women than those who do not frequently eat soy products.
In one study conducted in China, adolescent girls who ate 11.3 grams of soy protein each day had a 43 percent reduced risk for developing breast cancer than those who ate less than three grams daily. A single serving of soy -- 10 grams -- is the equivalent to one cup of soy milk, half a cup of tofu or half a cup of cooked soybeans.
Limit red and processed meats
Too many deli sandwiches just might kill you. Cancers of the rectum and colon have been linked to red and precessed meats.
An analysis of more than 80 prior studies on red meat consumption found that every 120 grams of red meat eaten a day increased colorectal cancer risk by approximately 28 percent.
Foods such as hotdogs and cold cuts are also linked to cancers of the colon and rectum. An analysis of 55 studies found people who ate 50 grams of processed meat increased their cancer risk by 21 percent. Additives found in processed meat, such as nitrates, are associated with cancer risk.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, which can reduce cell-damaging free radicals; antioxidants help the body fight off diseases and infections.
A large meta-analysis of 32 observational studies and 10,057 cases of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma found that higher intake of vegetables was associated with a 64 percent decreased risk of developing esophageal cancer.
An analysis of 35 studies found higher intake of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage could cut colorectal cancer risk by as much as 18 percent.
Women who consume the most carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, lower their risk of breast cancer by 19 percent.
Go easy on alcohol
Beer and wine lovers beware. A growing body of research has shown that when it comes to cancer prevention, it may be best to jump on the wagon.
Studies show that liming or avoiding alcohol may lower risk for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum and breasts.
Data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition indicated that every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the upper digestive tract by approximately 10 to 14 percent. The average alcoholic beverage contains 13.7 grams of alcohol.
And in a retrospective analysis of 60 studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer found people who drank 2 to 3 drinks per day had a 21 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer, compared with people who did not drink alcohol.
Risk from grilled or charred meats
Here’s some food for thought before you fire up that grill. The National Toxicology Program finds four heterocyclic amines (HCAs) -- chemicals that emerge from cooking meats at high temperature -- are potentially carcinogenic and may damage human genes. HCAs have been found to increase risk for cancer, especially cancers of the colon, rectum, breasts, prostate, kidney and pancreas.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to turn off the grill altogether. MD Anderson Cancer Center offers tips to keep your BBQ safe. They suggest trying fish instead, lightly oiling the grill, cooking meats at a lower temperature and avoid burning or charring meat.