The connection between diet and cancer Essay

This essay has a total of 1977 words and 9 pages.

The connection between diet and cancer

Cancer is a disease that can affect many different body parts. But no matter which body
part is affected, cancer always involves cells that, due to various causes, go through
genetic changes such that they start to proliferate wildly. In most forms of cancer the
expanding masses of cells form tumors that eventually push against and invade neighboring
tissue, disrupting body systems. In the course of time they may metastasize, travel via
the blood or lymph to another part of the body where they set up new colonies that in turn
grow and invade tissue. Even though terminal diseases such as cancer rely on genetic
factors, a healthy diet can be designed specifically for preventing disease and
effectively implemented into a person’s lifestyle and should therefore be utilized
by everyone who wishes to decrease his or her odds of promoting cancer.

The food that a person ingests often determines whether or not that person is at risk to
have or develop cancer. Certain foods promote different cancers in different parts of the
body. Diets high in animal protein especially promote cancers of the liver, large
intestine, kidney and breast. Diets high in total fat (animal as well as plant - based)
are particularly linked to cancers of the large intestine, prostate, breast and pancreas.
Inadequate intakes of plant antioxidant vitamins (beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and
many other similar substances) are implicated in many cancers. Food components can
prevent cancer by mopping up highly reactive chemicals (free radicals) that act throughout
the cancer process inhibiting cell division and enhancing the immune system, especially
the so-called "natural killer cells". Food components also reduce the enzyme conversion
of chemical carcinogens to active forms, boost the ability of cells to repair any genetic
damage and inhibit any ability of cancer cells to break away and invade other tissues.
Fruits, vegetables, and grains in general are anti-cancer champions. Virtually all of them
are rich in antioxidants and other substances that block cancer at many stages of its
development. The plant foods listed below are a few that appear to be great allies in our
fight against cancer. Green tea inhibits tumors of the esophagus, breast, skin, colon and
liver in rodents. Soybeans are rich in genistein, a phytochemical that appears to prevent
small tumors from growing. Genistein apparently interferes with cancer at many points,
from controlling cell proliferation to inhibiting angiogenesis, the building of blood
vessels that supply nutrients to tumors. Studies have shown it particularly to protect
against breast cancer. Broccoli and the cabbage family are full of phytochemicals that
fight cancer. One of them, sulforaphane, protects lab animals from breast cancer. It
appears to help cancer-fighting enzymes force carcinogens out of cells. And another,
phenmethyl isothiocyanate, apparently disarms carcinogens and prevents DNA from damage.
Tomatoes are associated with lower rates of several cancers, most particularly lung and
prostate cancer. Flavonoids, phytochemicals that give color to fruits and vegetables, may
block the ability of cancer-causing hormones to attach to cells. Garlic and onions
contain phytochemicals that activate enzymes that neutralize carcinogens. Flax seeds
contain lignans that may block cancerous changes. In addition, their oil is rich in
omega-3 fatty acids, which may be helpful against a variety of cancers. Brazil nuts are
rich in selenium, a mineral that, in population studies, is associated with decreased
incidence of cancer. Just one of these crunchy nuts a day is plenty. They are so rich in
selenium that eating too many could give you an overdose. Selenium may block both tumor
initiation and promotion.

In order to consume most of the above listed foods, a simple and sensible diet must be
followed. P. Singer, author of Animal Liberation suggests that an anti-cancer diet should
stay clear of meat at all costs and include the following:

Eat at least five to nine servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. These
foods are rich in antioxidants that can prevent the initiation of cancerous changes in the
cells, and in addition contain a variety of phytochemicals that may work to inhibit cancer
in other ways. Make sure to include members of the cabbage family, rich in powerful
anti-cancer substances. Increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Since there are
different kinds of fiber, eat a variety of whole foods to reap the various benefits they
have. Make sure to eat whole grains and beans as well as your daily fruits and vegetables
to help protect the gastrointestinal tract. Reduce fat intake to no more than 20% of
daily calories. Since fat is known to be a cancer promoter, this is one of the most
important steps you can take to protect yourself against cancer. Because fats occur
naturally in many foods, use only minimal amounts of added fats in cooking, or on your
toast in the morning. If you do use oils, use highly monounsaturated ones such as olive or
canola. Since meatseven the leanest cutsare relatively high in fat, it's difficult to
reach your low-fat goal while habitually eating animal-based foods. Choose a plant-based
diet, low in pre-prepared foods, which are often high in fat. Particularly avoid smoked
foods such as ham and bacon and charred or barbecued meats. Smoking and barbecuing,
particularly of protein-rich foods, can create powerful carcinogens. Avoid fried foods.
The high heat needed for frying causes cancer-promoting changes in the oils. Eat foods as
close to their natural state as possible. Highly processed foods have lost many of their
health-promoting nutrients and phytochemicals and may have harmful additives. Limit
alcohol intake, which can lead to mouth, esophageal and liver cancers, particularly when
associated with smoking. Cut back on coffee. While studies on the coffee/cancer
connection are not conclusive, there is some evidence that both caffeinated and
decaffeinated coffee are mutagenic. Try to eat organically grown produce. Pesticide
residues on common foods may cause 20,000 cancers a year, according to a 1987 National
Academy of Sciences report. Children are particularly susceptible. Maintain an appropriate
weight for your height and build. Through mechanisms not yet fully understood, overweight
people have higher rates of certain cancers.

Even though the above listed diet is beneficial for all types of cancer, specific cancers
require specific diets. Almost one in seven American women will get breast cancer. These
are frightening statistics, but it turns out that there is quite a lot we can do to keep
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