Diet And Cancer Risk

Diet may have either positive and negative influences on cancer risk (30). About 35% of cancer occurrence is related to dietary factors (31). The role of diet in cancer etiology is summarized in Table 8. Dietary fat intake was associated with breast cancer in animals as early as 1942 (32,33). More recently, higher intake levels of dietary fat have been related to increased risk of colon cancer (34). Positive correlations between per capita fat intakes and breast cancer rates have been described (35,36). It has been argued, however, that it may be the high food energy intake that is causative rather than the percentage of the food energy coming from dietary fat (37). Nevertheless, diets high in fat, particularly saturated fat, have also been associated with a higher incidence of cancer of the colon, prostate, and breast (17).

Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables has been recommended to reduce cancer risk as these foods contain protective factors. Many are also high in fiber, an increased consumption of which has been associated with decreased risk of cancer (especially colon cancer). Diets high in plant foods, starches, fiber, and various carotenes are commonly associated with a lower incidence of alimentary tract cancers. A number of dietary and nondietary factors have been found to decrease the incidence of various cancers. Lycopene found in tomatoes appears to be protective against colorectal cancer (38) as it can scavenge per-oxyl radicals and quench singlet oxygen. Increased intakes of plants of the cabbage family appear to be protective against certain cancers (39). More recently, broccoli sprouts have been shown to contain high levels of the anticarcinogenic chemical sulforaphane. This compound has been known to help mobilize the body's natural cancer-fighting resources and reduces the risk of developing cancer (40).

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