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Cancer - preventative diet: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Why is it used?

There is no actual diet that can guarantee the prevention of any cancer, however, there is a good deal of research that now shows that as many as a third of cancers may be attributed to the type of food that is eaten. This suggests that everyone should consider what foods are eaten and decide whether changes should be made to reduce the likelihood of getting cancer.

Who would require the diet?

Anyone who is interested in their health, and in particular those people who feel they are more at risk of developing cancer though family history, may wish to make appropriate changes to their regular eating patterns.

What is the diet and how does it work?

The diet is based on 'healthy eating' principles:

  • The largest proportion of foods eaten should be starchy carbohydrates, including fibre-containing foods, such as whole grain cereals where practical. Diets that are rich in fibre (see High Fibre Diets) are thought to help reduce the risk of cancers of the bowel.
  • Aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, more if possible.
  • Total fat intake should be low. Using low fat spreads and low fat milk may be the most practical way for most people to achieve lower fat intake (see Low Fat Diets).
  • Limit consumption of red meat, substituting white meat as an alternative. Portions sizes should be moderate, eg, 3-4 ounces (100g) cooked meat, a little more for white meat. Substituting vegetable proteins (eg, beans and pulses) for meat would be a good idea.
  • Eat less sugar and sugar containing foods.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderate quantities. 3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 units per day for women, preferably having some alcohol-free days.

    It is standard to give each of the following measures as being equivalent to 1 unit of alcohol:

    • ½ pint beer
    • 1 glass of wine
    • 1 single spirits
    • 1 measure of fortified wines e.g. sherry or port

    Many wines from hotter climates have higher alcohol levels, tending to be closer to 12-13%. This is easily 2-3% higher than the original wines that were first measured, and therefore it is more prudent to classify them as 1.5 units.

    Alcopops and canned beers are equivalent to 1.5 - 1.75 units, whilst the strongest ciders can be as much as 2.5 - 3.5 units per can.

    The recommended maximum units of alcohol per week for men is 28, and for women, 21.

  • Avoid excess salt (see Low Salt Diets). Stomach cancers have been linked to diets which are high in salt.
  • Avoid becoming overweight (see Weight Reducing Diets) as this is thought to be a contributing factor in some cancers such as breast cancer.

Will the diet harm me?

No, the diet is thought to be helpful, although anyone who is concerned about other illnesses that they have, may wish to consult their Doctor, or a State Registered Dietitian to discuss their concerns.

What else do I need to know?

It is known that certain nutrients known as antioxidants are thought to be beneficial in the fight against cancer. The vitamins A and beta-carotene, C and E, as well as the mineral selenium, are powerful antioxidants. Some people feel that taking these as nutritional supplements are a good protector, however, scientific evidence has not demonstrated this clearly. It is possible that phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables themselves are more important, so the simple answer is to eat a diet, which is high in fruit and vegetables.

Phytonutrients (not photonutrients)

This is a term given to a group of nutrients found in plant foods that are not vitamins or minerals, but may have important roles in the prevention of some diseases such as heart diseases or cancer. Many have yet to be isolated and identified, but the ones that have caused most interest to th