Diet and Cancer

The ways in which foods and nutrients influence the risk for cancer, cancer development, and the effectiveness of cancer treatment. A number of foods have emerged that appear to contain substances that have cancerfighting capabilities.

Substances found in foods that appear able to help the immune system suppress the development and growth of cancer cells include calcium, folate (folic acid), carotenoids, vitamin C, flavonoids, lignans, lycopenes, catechins, indoles, and SOY isoflavones. Numerous foods provide these substances.

Conversely, foods that are high in saturated fat, highly salted foods, and preserved foods appear to increase the risk for cancer overall and particularly for cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

The extent to which nutrients can inhibit tumor growth remains an area of intensive study in CANCER PREVENTION research. Though foods and nutrients are not the sole factors that prevent or cause cancer, they clearly play significant roles in immune function.

Foods That Supply Cancer-Fighting Ssubstances

Cancer-Fighting SubstanceCancer-Fighting ActionsFood Sources
calciumreduces the irritation bile and fatty acids cause in the gastrointestinal tract particular benefit to reduce risk for colorectal cancerbroccoli, bok choy, kale, milk, yogurt, cheese, salmon, legumes
carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin)block growth of cancer cells particular benefit to reduce risk for lung cancerand cervical cancercarrots, sweet potatoes, yellow squash, apricots, bell peppers, corn, spinach
catechinsneutralize free radicalsgreen tea, grapes, wine, chocolate
flavonoidsprotect DNA, neutralize free radicalscarrots, citrus fruits, onions, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, broccoli, soybeans and soybean products
folate (folic acid)essential for DNA synthesis and repairbeets, broccoli, cabbage, legumes, spinach, avocados, turkey, asparagus
indolesblock the actions of carcinogens to cause cells to mutate particular benefit to reduce risk for breast cancer and prostate cancercauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, broccoli
lignansmaintain cell health particular benefit to reduce risk for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancerflaxseed oil, flaxseeds, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, green tea, black tea
lycopenesparticular benefit to reduce risk for prostate cancertomatoes, tomato sauce, pink grapefruit, guava, watermelon
soy isoflavonesblock tyrosine kinase, an enzyme that promotes cancer cell proliferation particular benefit to reduce risk for hormone-driven cancers (breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer)fresh soybeans, tofu, soy flour, soy-based foods
vitamin CANTIOXIDANT that neutralizes free radicals blocks conversion of nitrates blocks cancer cells from dividing and proliferating particular benefit to reduce risk for esophageal cancer and stomach cancercitrus fruits, strawberries, red cabbage, bell peppers, kiwi fruit, mangoes


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