While working on curing cancers, researchers have found the causes for many of them. Knowing the causes has led to treatments and discovering how to prevent certain cancers. While there are causes that make it harder to prevent cancers from developing, such as genetics, there are still many things people can do to lower risk of cancer.

Two Components that Help Prevent Cancer

The two best-known ways to prevent cancer and reduce the risk of other diseases is to eat a healthy diet and exercise. This combination can reduce or prevent medical conditions like:

  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Depression

Along with preventing chronic diseases, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help treat many temporary illnesses like the flu and the common cold.

Reducing Cancer Risks

Being overweight due to a poor diet and lack of exercise may increase the risk of developing some cancers. In fact, being obese may be responsible for 8% of all cancers and 7% of all cancer-related deaths in the United States.

Being obese can increase the risk of getting cancers like:

  • Colon and rectal
  • Esophageal
  • Kidney
  • Breast cancer in post-menopausal women
  • Pancreatic
  • Cervical
  • Aggressive Prostate Cancers

Fortunately, there is evidence that weight loss can reduce the risk of developing cancer. Some research suggests that losing weight reduces hormones like estrogen, androgen, and insulin that may increase the formation of cancer.

Reducing Risks by Exercising

There is some evidence that exercising can help reduce the risk of developing some cancers. For instance, a study that was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention found brisk walking could reduce the risk of breast cancer in menopausal women by about 14%, and more vigorous types of exercise reduced the risk by up to 25%.  

A massive study of over 1.4 million people from the US and Europe found evidence showing that exercise, including moderate exercise, can reduce the risks of developing 13 types of cancer. The study pooled information from past studies comparing exercise and incidences of cancer.

The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, included participants with the average age of 59 years old who kept track of their exercise habits, weight, height, and other information for the study. Only 186,932 participants were diagnosed with cancer after 11 years.

Some of the cancers that were reduced by higher activity levels included:

  • Colon
  • Breast
  • Endometrial
  • Liver
  • Stomach
  • Bone Marrow cancer, called Myeloma
  • Rectum
  • Bladder
  • Lung

The study found a 7% lower cancer risk for all cancers when the information was adjusted for the age and sex of the participants and habits like smoking and drinking.

Reducing Risks with Diet

Along with exercise, there is also evidence that what you eat can help lower risk of cancer. Multiple studies show that eating diets that contain plant-based foods can help reduce some cancers in both men and women. One specific diet is the Mediterranean Diet.  

The Mediterranean Diet focuses on eating a healthy diet that includes fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and using extra-virgin olive oil with which to cook. The diet also includes fish as the main source of protein.

Foods that Increase Cancer Risks

Diets should be low in saturated fats, processed foods, and red meat because some of them can increase cancer risks. Processed foods have been found to increase cancer because they are high in fat and contain chemicals that affect the body and could trigger its development.

There are naturally occurring chemicals in red meat that studies suggest can increase some forms of cancer. Red meats include fresh, frozen, or minced beef, lamb, and pork. They contain a chemical that is responsible for giving meat its red pigment, which is called Haem.

Haem may increase the risks of cancer because it can irritate or damage the body’s cells. It may also increase the risk because they can produce more harmful chemicals from bacteria within the body.

Cooking red meat at high temperatures, such as barbequing or grilling it, can also produce cancer-causing chemicals within the body. These naturally occurring chemicals are heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, and polycyclic amines, or PCAs.

However, these chemicals are not produced when grilling or charring vegetables or fish, so it is safe to do so. The types of cancers red meat and processed foods may increase involve the:

  • Bowel
  • Stomach
  • Pancreas

Why are Plant-Based Diets Safer?

There may be several reasons why plant-based dietary choices will lower risk of cancer. Plant-based foods contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which keeps free radicals, or oxidation, from damaging the human body. They may also prevent your DNA from mutating due to the components in fresh produce.

When buying fresh vegetables and fruits, look for organically grown produce that further reduces the risk of developing cancer. Organic produce is grown without the use of harmful chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or bioengineered processes like genetically modified organisms, GMOs. In the grocery store, look for labels that say the food is grown without GMOs and is organic.

Fresh produce and whole grains also help to lower the development of cancers because they are high in fiber. Fiber helps to move carcinogens through the intestines faster, lowering the risk of colon cancer. In addition, fiber also prevents cancer by absorbing bile.

Having too much bile in the system can allow bacteria to grow and produce fecapentanes, which are cancerous substances caused by decaying foods in the intestine. A fibrous diet helps to move this substance through the intestines and out of the body faster.

Diets high in fiber can also reduce the risk of breast cancer by binding to estrogen in the bowels and move it through them. Even if people are genetically predisposed to colorectal cancer, a high fiber diet can prevent them from developing it. Eating about 25 grams of fiber a day can help reduce the risk of these cancers.

Foods that Lower Risk of Cancer

There are foods that can reduce the risk of certain cancers in both men and women. Along with fresh, organic produce, they may also include drinks like tea or coffee because they plant-based and contain high levels of antioxidants. In fact, green tea is well-known for having high levels of antioxidants and its ability to help people lose weight.

There are several foods that lower the risk of cancer for men and women. These foods include:

Coffee – Studies show that drinking black coffee can help women prevent cancer, especially uterine cancer, by up to 25%. Black coffee changes the way insulin and estrogen are used by a woman’s body, which helps reduce their cancer risk.

Lentils – Lentils are small beans that are high in fiber, so they can help prevent colon cancer in both women and men. Eating them, along with other beans, can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as keep you feeling full longer after eating.

Garlic – This seasoning is well-known for its ability to help prevent heart disease, but now research indicates it can help keep certain cancers from developing. Garlic contains nutrients like vitamins C and B6, selenium, and manganese that can reduce intestinal cancer. It may also help fight against breast, stomach, and colon cancers.

Broccoli – Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale may prevent men from getting prostate cancer. These vegetables are low in carbohydrates, but rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, all which help lower cancer risks.

Lemons – Australian researchers have found that consuming citrus fruits like lemons, limes, or oranges may cut the risk of throat, stomach, and mouth cancers by 50%.  

Salmon – Including fish in your diet four or more times per week can help to lower the risk of developing leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and myeloma cancers by one-third. Also, the omega 3 fatty acids in salmon, mackerel, and other fish can reduce endometrial cancer in women.

Tomatoes – This vine growing fruit contains a plant pigment called lycopene that can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. A study showed that men who ate 10 or more servings of tomatoes per week, either raw or cooked, reduced their risk by 18%. Eat raw tomatoes with fat like olive oil to make them more effective.

Sauerkraut – The fermentation process to make sauerkraut helps to produce cancer-fighting agents like ITCs, indoles, and sulforaphane. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir should be included in a healthy diet to increase the number of probiotics in your digestive system.

Grapes – Grapes contain an antioxidant called resveratrol which can help reduce breast, liver, lymphatic system, and stomach cancers. The most resveratrol is in the skin, and red or purple grapes contain more of it than green ones do. If you drink red wine can also lower risk of cancer because it contains resveratrol.

If you want to know how to lower cancer risk, exercise to lose weight and eat a plant-based diet high in fiber to prevent it. A healthy diet can help even if you’re predisposed to certain cancers due to your genetics.