Cancer Strongly Linked
To Lifestyle And Diet
Reuters) -- The leading causes of cancer in industrialized nations could be largely prevented with a healthier diet and lifestyle, British doctors reported Thursday. Their prescription is a familiar one: eat less red meat and more fruit, vegetables and fiber, drink alcohol only in moderation, shed excess weight, get regular exercise and kick the cigarette habit.
The researchers said the diet link is strongest in colon cancer.
"It's a consistent essage and the more work that is done, the more consistent it becomes," said Dr. John Cummings, a nutrition researcher at the MRC Dunn Clinical Nutrition Center in Cambridge. "If you change your diet in particular ways, you will reduce your risk of cancer." Dietary factors may account for up to 80 percent of cancers of the bowel, breast and prostate - three leading cancers in the United States, reported Cummings and colleague Dr. Sheila Bingham. "Diet is the major identifiable risk factor that you can change in these cancers," Cummings said. "The evidence points to these being very much related to diet." Other experts, however, have questioned the role of diet, particularly in breast cancer. Lung cancer - another leading cancer-killer - is largely caused by cigarette smoking, they said. The researchers based their conclusions on a review of major studies that examined diet and cancer. Their findings are published in this week,s issue of the British Medical Journal.
Each year in the United States doctors diagnose 180,000 new cases of breast cancer, 131,000 cases of colorectal cancer, 178,000 cases of lung cancer and 209,000 cases of prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The researchers said the diet link is strongest in colon cancer. Meat most likely raises the odds of bowel cancer by producing carcinogens called heterocyclic amines, they said. High alcohol consumption is another cancer culprit, the study authors said. "Alcohol is a significant risk factor for upper gastrointestinal cancer, liver cancer and breast cancers, they wrote. They emphasized the protective properties of fresh fruit and vegetables and said there was no evidence that vitamin supplements help to reduce cancer. Some studies of smokers have shown that beta-carotene supplements could even be harmful.