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Cancer will affect 1 in 3 of us during our lives, and with cancers of the lung, bowel, prostate and breast accounting for almost half of all these adult deaths in the United Kingdom, it’s important to be aware of the risk.
We’ve all heard again and again how smoking, alcohol and too much sun exposure can put us at greater risk of getting cancer, but are there certain things that we can introduce to our lives that can really help better our odds?
Although official sources such as Cancer Research say that there is no one food that will definitely help prevent cancer, some scientists claim that the number of cancer cases could be reduced by as much as a third if we ate more healthily.
So we wanted to look at some of the things that we’ve heard could help to prevent cancer in the long run:
Carrots: We’ve all heard the rumour that carrots can ‘help us see in the dark’, but according to a new study, there’s research to suggest that they might actually help fight against breast cancer. A scientific study of 3000 women showed that those with the largest consumption of foods rich in carotene (a pigment abundant in veggies such as carrots and spinach) were 40-60% less likely to develop non-hormone sensitive breast cancers than those who ate the least of these vegetables. Carrots for dinner tonight then!
Coffee: We’re used to being told that our caffeine addiction is rotting us from the inside out, but several scientific studies have shown that your morning cup of coffee could actually help stop cancer returning. A 2015 study of 100 colon cancer patients showed that those who drank more than 4 cups of coffee a day were 42% less likely to have the cancer come back once they were in remission. And they were 34% less likely to die from cancer than non-coffee drinkers. A study done in Sweden also showed patients who drank between 2 and 5 cups a cup were 50% less likely to get breast cancer again compared to those who had none or less than two.
Grapes: Many studies have shown that grape seeds have a preventative risk against various cancers, but even if you’re more a fan of seedless grapes there are benefits for you too! Grapes have been shown in some studies to block the toxic effect of cancer cells and prevent their growth. This was shown in the cases of breast and skin cancer, lowering the risk of those who ate grapes as part of their diet.
Peanuts: Now this is definitely one we could get on board with – we love peanuts as an afternoon snack. Researchers found that eating at least 10g of nuts or peanuts per day led to a lower risk of dying from cancer (as well as lots of other major diseases). Reductions were just as strong in other nuts including cashews, almonds, pecans and walnuts. However this doesn’t mean you can just eat a spoonful of peanut butter from the jar – the salt and vegetable oils in the spread were found to cancel out the cancer-protecting benefits of the nuts.
Green tea: We’ve always known that green tea was the celebrity tea of choice (although personally we think sometimes you can’t beat an English breakfast cuppa), and it seems green tea could have cancer-preventative properties too. Lab studies have shown that extracts from green tea can stop cancer cells from growing. Green tea contains polyphenols, which scientists think give it antioxidant properties. It has also been attributed to the long life expectancy in the Far East where green tea is consumed daily.
Tumeric: Tumeric has been used for thousands of years in Asian communities to fight off colds and other illnesses as a herbal remedy, but it has also been proven to have cancer preventative properties. Research has shown that there are low rates of certain types of cancer in countries where people eat curcumin (a chemical found in the yellow spice) at levels of about 100 to 200 mg a day over long periods of time. Cancer Research UK says that an American study from 2007 found that curcumin combined with chemotherapy to treat bowel cancer cells showed that the combined treatment killed more cancer cells than chemotherapy alone.
Broccoli: We already love our green veg for their health benefits that include boosting our immune system and giving us glossier hair, skin and nails, but now it seems that our veggie friends are providing great protection against cancer. In 1982, the National Research Council on Diet said that both broccoli and cabbage were great defenders against abnormal cell growth. You don’t even have to eat large amounts to lower your risk of cancer – as little as 1/8 cup a day of chopped raw broccoli or cabbage can have a significant effect.
Grapefruit: Now sadly for any grapefruit lovers out there, science has indicated that we actually should be avoiding the orange and pink fruit if we’re trying to lower our risk of cancer. Both orange juice and grapefruit have actually been linked to a slight increase in the risk of contracting skin cancer. In an American study it was shown that there was an increased risk of melanoma for those who drank more than a glass of orange juice a day and for people who ate fresh grapefruit more than three times a week.
Of course what is most important in preventing any major diseases, such as cancer or heart problems, is maintaining a healthy diet with regular exercise and avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol.