A Healthy Life: Cancer Prevention and More
WLC Director of Nutrition Kathleen Zelman investigates the link between diet and cancer
Science is evolutionary, not revolutionary. While a new day often brings a
new study looking at the link between cancer and diet, a single study rarely
turns the world upside down. WebMD turned to experts to get to the bottom of
the connection between cancer and nutrition. "The evidence on fruits and
vegetables has weakened over the last few years with respect to breast cancer
yet remains strong for other forms of cancer such as respiratory and
gastrointestinal cancers," Tim Byer, MD, tells WebMD. "There is no
doubt that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables continues to be beneficial for
cancer prevention in general."
"Regular physical activity, weight control, and a heart-healthy diet are
the best defenses for both men and women to prevent disease and promote a long
and healthy life," says Byer, epidemiologist and professor of preventive
medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Food, Genetics Interact
There are a whole host of benefits of a healthy diet that go beyond cancer.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- the foundation of a healthy diet --
contain fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other healthy substances.
These nutrient-dense foods are naturally fat free, very satisfying, low in
calories, and the cornerstone of a weight-control eating plan.
Food interactions are very complex. Healthful substances in food continue to
be discovered. Researchers are unraveling the mystery of exactly which
components in foods are responsible for preventing cancer and other chronic
In addition to foods themselves, our own unique genetic profile determines
how our body responds to health-promoting substances in foods. To get the
health protection and disease prevention benefits from food, experts recommend
eating a wide variety of plant-based foods.
Back to Basics
Years ago, the American Cancer Society moved away from making
recommendations on specific foods to reduce cancer risk to an emphasis on
improving dietary patterns."Clearly, some foods are more beneficial than
others, and we continue to advocate five servings a day of colorful fruits and
vegetables" Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, American Cancer Society nutrition and
physical activity director, tells WebMD.
Doyle adds that physical activity and weight control are just as important
as a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limited in saturated
The strongest evidence for cancer prevention lies in weight management and
regular physical activity, according to Doyle. "Following the guidelines
for alcohol (1 drink/day for women, 2 for men) and not smoking are also
essential to wellness and disease prevention."