How Diet and Physical Activity Tie Into Cancer Prevention

Dramatically reducing your risk of cancer is as easy as eating right and exercising regularly. The 2010 American Cancer Society facts and figures state that more than one-third of the over 500,000 cancer related deaths last year were related to poor diet and lack of exercise. While many people are lead to believe that genetics is to blame for most cancer deaths, this is not true. Non-inherited factors of cancer such as obesity, tobacco, alcohol and nutrition play a much larger role in cancer deaths than genetics.


  • Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of different vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other substances that help prevent cancer. Researchers have found that greater consumption of fruits and vegetables leads to decreased risk of lung, esophageal, stomach and colorectal cancer. Taking a supplement pill is not equivalent to actually eating the fruits and vegetables that naturally contain these supplements. While the supplement is better than nothing at all, it is important to eat the actual fruits and vegetables as much as possible.
  • Recent research also shows that eating processed meats such as, hotdogs, cold cuts and bacon, and red meats such as, beef, pork and lamb, lead to an increased risk of colon, rectal and prostate cancers. While meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, it is also a major contributor to consumption of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Contributing to cancer risk is a carcinogenic substance that is produced when meat is grilled or fried at a very high temperature and processed meats often already contain chemicals that can be linked to cancer.
  • In most cases, obesity is caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise. Consuming processed foods high in sugar and carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance, altered distribution of body fat and increased concentrations of growth factors that promote the growth of cancerous cells.

Exercise Exercise is important in preventing all types of cancer. Obesity directly affects the risk of many types of cancer including: breast, colon, endometrial, esophagus and kidney cancer. The American Cancer Society states that the link between exercise and cancer generally comes from different effects of sugar and fat on the metabolism, immune function, cell growth and hormone levels.

The American Cancer Society suggests lifestyle choices you can make that will lower your risk of cancer.

  • Balance caloric intake with physical activity
  • Avoid excessive weight gain throughout entire life cycle.
  • Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Limit consumption of red and processed meats.
  • Eat whole grains, as opposed to processed grains.
  • Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes (45-60 is preferred) of vigorous activity five or more days per week.

Ultimately, what these suggestions promote to is a balance of intake of food and output of exercise.

*Information and statistics used in this article are derived from the American Cancer Society’s, “Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts and Figures 2010”

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