Cancer: What You Eat
Can Lower the Risk

Cancer is a group of diseases. It can attack any part of the body. It is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. About 500,000 people die from cancer each year. The cause of most kinds of cancer is unknown. Scientists think some kinds of cancer can run in families. Other kinds of cancer are caused by what we eat and the way we live (lifestyle).

Lifestyle: The way we choose to live
Does cancer run in your family? Find out if anyone in your family has cancer. Also find out if anyone died from cancer before you were born. Check both your mother's side and your father's side. You may have a greater risk of cancer if family members have had cancer.

You can lower the risk of lung cancer if you quit smoking. You can lower the risk of skin cancer by protecting yourself while in the sun. Chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco (snuff) can cause cancer of the mouth, gums and throat. Too much alcohol can cause liver cancer and may cause breast cancer. These risks are linked to a lifestyle. You can decide to change your life and lower your risk of cancer.

How we eat
The National Cancer Institute is studying how plants can fight cancer. Some foods have been found cancer-fighting. Some foods may help to block cancer in the body. Others seem to prevent cancer and stop the spread of cancer cells.

Fruits and Vegetables
Vitamins, fiber and other things found in fruits and vegetables seem to work together. Eating lots of cabbage, broccoli and sweet potatoes can fight cancer. These vegetables help to fight colon cancer, rectal cancer and prostate cancer.

Eat foods high in vitamin C such as tomatoes, oranges and green peppers. These foods may stop normal body cells from becoming cancer cells. There is no short cut. Vitamin pills do not work in the same way as eating the real thing. Scientists do not know how to put all the good things from fruits and vegetables into a pill. Maybe some day they will. But today the cancer fighting chemicals are found in plants not pills.

When you go to the grocery store, buy bags of apples and oranges. Put an apple in your pocket or purse to eat later in the day. Try to eat 2 kinds of fruit every day. If you did not eat any fruit yesterday, eat three kinds today.

Eat less fat
Eating too much grease, butter and margarine can increase your risk of cancer. Too much grease weakens your body's defense system. If you are unable to fight off cancer cells, cancer will grow. Eating too much greasy, fried food may cause colon cancer.

Also, too much meat can cause a problem. If you eat a lot of meat, you probably do not eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. There is more fat in meat than any other food we eat. Ground beef, sausage, and bacon are high in fat. Eat chicken, turkey and fish more often. Try not to eat fried meat very often.

Meat, eggs and cheese have no fiber. Fiber is only found in plants. Beans, peas, apples and sweet potatoes are high in fiber. Eating lots of fiber can protect against colon and rectum cancer. Fiber may also protect against other forms of cancer.

Scientists are looking for new ways to fight cancer. You can fight cancer by eating fruits and vegetables every day. You can quit smoking. You can drink less alcohol, or not at all. You can eat less fat and greasy foods. Remember, once you have cancer these rules may change.

Prepared by Drusilla Banks, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

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