Diet is one of the known factors to cancer risk, but is there a clear link between the food we eat and your chances of incurring or avoiding a particular cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that one-third of all cancer deaths are related with diet. Over the years, some released findings on the link of certain foods and drinks with cancer risk. Some of which include alcohol, tea, cruciferous vegetables, flaxseed, dry beans, grapefruit, walnuts, whole grains, coffee, cherries, blueberry, apples, soy, squash, and cranberry.
However, there are varying findings on specific food items and their relationship with cancer, which makes gauging their link with the disease more challenging.
There are several studies conducted to test the relationship between specific foods and beverages and cancer, and they yielded mixed results.
For instance, The National Cancer Institute found clear patterns between alcohol and certain types of cancer such as head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, and breast cancer. On the other hand, studies about tea, which is another food staple linked to cancer because of its antioxidant content, reveal no direct link with its ability to prevent cancer risks. However, it has results pertaining to lessened incidence of conditions that are precursor to cancers.
Meanwhile heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) found in cooked meats is also believed to be substances that increases cancer risk in animals. But for humans, the exposure to those substances from cooked meats are harder to measure because they can also be ingested from other sources such as pollution and tobacco smoke.
While ongoing studies are still being conducted to draw a clear link between food and cancer, most of the results published are still inconclusive.
What most researchers are challenged with are their source of data and time. Most studies are based on what people remember eating for the previous years, which is not a reliable of source of data. Some experts say that ideally, the proper way of finding the link between diet and cancer is to study and follow what a particular group is eating for a long period of time. It is a wide-scale, expensive, and long-term effort, making it difficult to conduct.
“The ideal study would start during pregnancy (perhaps even before) and would collect data about maternal diets and then continue to collect data and follow participants—in other words, a birth cohort,” said Dr. Walter Willet in a lecture he delivered called Diet 7 Cancer: The Fourth Paradigm.
Meanwhile, animal studies may not be as helpful because their results may not apply with humans.
The Benefits of a Healthy Diet
While more evidence is needed to find a direct relationship between cancer and certain food staples, that doesn’t meant that you should discredit the benefits of eating right to your overall health. Generally, getting nourishment from the right types of foods and eating ideal portions have benefits like stronger immune system, ideal weight, increased productivity, and a better disposition.
Meanwhile, if you think you are at risk for cancer or are currently battling with the disease, ask your doctor for food and diet recommendations that are appropriate for your condition.