October's Wellness Topic: Reducing Risk and Living with Cancer
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Arlene Dalcin, RD
Reducing Risk and Living with Cancer

Nutrition and Cancer
by Arlene Dalcin

You probably know someone who has been affected by cancer. That's because one out of two men and one out of three women get some form of it.

My mom died when she was 64 from the disease. While there isn't much you can do about your genes or your physical environment, the American Cancer Society recommends that we modify any lifestyle behaviors we now might have that are known to increase the risks of the most common cancers. Here are some things worth considering that can lower your risk.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight, particularly after menopause, increases your risk of developing breast cancer. Being overweight or obese is also associated with uterine, pancreatic, lung, esophageal and colorectal cancers.
  • Limit processed meats such as bacon and sausage, which contain nitrates. Nitrosamines and other carcinogens can be formed when such foods are cooked at high heat.
  • Watch your intake of red meat. It contains a type of iron that generates DNA-damaging free radicals; a diet high in saturated fat, which is plentiful in red meat, may also contribute to obesity.
  • Eat a more plant-based diet. Especially include lots of deep red and purple berries and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and dark leafy greens).
  • Carotenoid-rich foods such as carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes may have a protective effect against breast cancer.
  • Whole soy foods (such as tofu and edamame) as can be part of a balanced diet. They are safe and possibly beneficial for breast-cancer survivors.
  • Daily exercise is critical to maintain a healthy weight and may have a protective effect against certain cancers.

October is Breast Cancer awareness month. Have the courage to change the things you can — during this "harvest time," choose from the large variety of wholesome foods available. And while you're at it, get out and enjoy a brisk walk in the beautiful autumn air.

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