Eating healthier can reduce the risk of cancer


My very good friend Joanne recently revealed that she is starting radiation treatment for a very recent diagnosis of breast cancer. She found her lump and immediately contacted her physician. From then to now has been a whirlwind of activity. The area of concern started with an “itch,” but it really concerned her. “Maybe it was imagination,” she thought. She persisted, even when the mammogram wasn’t seeing it. In this case her lump was positional – undetectable when standing, but detectable when she leaned forward. It was tiny – about half a centimeter (2.54 centimeters - 1 inch). 

Joanne marked her area with a sharpie so radiographers would know. Her tumor is hormone (estrogen) driven. Ironically enough, Joanne always monitored her diet and instinctively avoided foods that promote hormones.

She eats much more healthy than I do. And she has no known family history. Her first treatment was Monday – right before Breast Cancer Awareness Month – October. The statistics are shocking – 1 out of 8 women will suffer breast cancer.  I wrote several columns on prevention in the past, and my information is meant to educate my readers. But I know it can strike anyone – even those who eat a great diet and have a healthy lifestyle. 

For those who are interested, there are foods and lifestyle practices that actually promote cancer, and then there are foods and lifestyle practices that can help prevent it. Let’s review food and lifestyle practices that can PROMOTE cancer: High fat foods, nitrites (found in cured meat), eating the burnt part of charcoal grilled foods (acrolein), belly fat (look in a mirror), high levels of caffeine, cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke, heating foods in Styrofoam and plastic wraps, supplements containing boron and excessive use of soy, and even eating the same foods over and over. There is evidence that soy, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower, citrus fruits, flax seeds and fiber increase hormone production. 

Then there are those that can PREVENT cancer: Eating more plant-based proteins (beans, legumes), drinking more water, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables – especially  those with deep colors (beets, winter squash, carrots), including fish at least weekly, eating low fat foods, eating more whole foods (a baked potato instead of French fries), using whole grains (rye or pumpernickel instead of plain white bread), eating a wide variety of foods (limits overexposure), staying physically active and achieving and maintaining  a healthy weight range.

Joanne stresses the importance of self-detection. That, my dear readers, is just one more thing that we need to do on a regular basis. But it is so important. I have a monthly note on my Calendar in my iPhone to remind me to self-examine on the first of the month. Get familiar with what is normal and then pay attention to any changes. Johns Hopkins Medical Center states, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancer are detected by women who feel a lump.” It’s also important to do a monthly visual inspection, too. You can Google how to perform the self-exam, which is recommended to do while in the shower.

As far as diet changes – Plan at least one plant based dinner weekly – beans and greens…pasta and tomato sauce?? That’s easier on your pocketbook, too. Use baby carrots, apples, grapes, cut-up green peppers as snacks instead of chips and dip. Substitute flavored herbal teas for coffee and soda. Carry a water bottle around to have ready access to a healthier no calorie beverage. Use whole foods more in your meal preparation. It only takes 4 minutes to nuke a whole potato. Let’s make surviving the easier option. Continue with PINK POWER!! And I’m praying for my friend. 

Jeannie Wolcott, RD, CDN, is a retired registered dietitian, licensed Zumba (R) instructor for adults and kids, and a coordinator of Old Forestport Days.


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