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October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
When it comes to cancer there are no guarantees. However, some of these healthy habits may significantly reduce your risks:
Continue reading for more in-depth information on maintaining your health through diet.
Consuming a diet high in insoluble fiber is best achieved by switching from white rice to brown rice and from bakery goods made with white flour or mixed flours to 100% whole wheat bread, whole rye crackers, and whole grain pancake mixes. Refined white flour is generally listed on food packaging labels as "flour," "enriched flour," "unbleached flour," "durum wheat," "semolina," or "white flour." Breads containing only whole wheat are often labeled "100% whole wheat."
Compared with meat eaters, most, but not all, studies have found that vegetarians are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. Vegetarians have also been shown to have stronger immune function, possibly explaining why vegetarians may be partially protected against cancer. Female vegetarians have been reported to have lower estrogen levels compared with meat-eating women, possibly explaining a lower incidence of uterine and breast cancers. A reduced risk for various cancers is only partly, not totally, explained by differences in body weight, smoking habits, and other lifestyle issues.
Fruits and Vegetables
Most doctors also recommend that people should not consider supplements as substitutes for the real thing. Some of the anticancer substances found in produce have probably not yet been discovered, while others are not yet available in supplement form. More important, some research, particularly regarding synthetic beta-carotene, does not support the idea that taking supplements has the same protective value against cancer as does consumption of fruits and vegetables.
A review of published research found that higher intake of tomatoes or higher blood levels of lycopene correlated with protection from cancer in 57 of 72 studies. Findings in 35 of these studies were statistically significant. Evidence of a protective effect for tomato consumption was strongest for cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach, but some evidence of a protective effect also appeared for cancers of the pancreas, colon, rectum, esophagus (throat), mouth, breast, and cervix.
Preliminary studies suggest dietary fat may correlate with the risk of uterine cancer. Some of the excess risk appears to result from increased body weight that results from a high-fat diet.
Women in countries that consume high amounts of meat and dairy fat have a high risk of breast cancer, while women in countries that mostly consume rice, soy, vegetables, and fish (instead of dairy fat and meat) have a low risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol and Cancer
Some, though not all, studies have reported that alcohol increases estrogen levels. Increased estrogen levels might explain the increase in risk.
In a preliminary report, drinkers with low intake of folic acid had a 32% increased risk of breast cancer compared with nondrinkers; however, the excess risk was only 5% in those drinkers who consumed adequate levels of folic acid. In the same report, women taking multivitamins containing folic acid and having at least 1.5 drinks per day had a 26% lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared with women drinking the same amount of alcohol but not taking folic acid-containing vitamins.
Alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of cancers of the mouth (oral/oropharyngeal cancer), throat (esophageal cancer), and voice box (laryngeal cancer), particularly in conjunction with cigarette smoking. Most studies documenting these associations also report that former drinkers have significantly lower risks for these cancers compared with current drinkers. Strong correlations between alcohol consumption and the risk of having liver cancer have also been reported.
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