Category Archives: Cancer

Taking the “Angelina Jolie Effect” a Step Further to Prevent Cancer

Last week, Angelina Jolie wrote movingly of her decision to reduce her risk of cancer by opting for preventive surgery. While few of us will ever have to stare an 87 percent risk of cancer in the face, as Jolie did, the unfortunate truth is that at some point in our lives, many of us—nearly one in two men and one in three women—will develop cancer. Whether we carry the BRCA1 gene mutation or not, we can all learn from Jolie’s thoughtful, proactive approach.

As a doctor, I want people to know that they already wield some of the most powerful tools to help take control over the risk of cancer:  the fork and knife. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, diet and lifestyle changes could prevent up to one-third of U.S. cancer cases.

In 2014, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition published research my colleagues and I conducted showing that with so much evidence pointing toward a link between dietary choices and certain types of cancer, we ought to apply the precautionary principle to the foods we eat and avoid the products likely to cause the most harm.

precautionary principle

For the most part, that means animal products. Consuming just one serving of processed meat per day can up the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent, while drinking two glasses of milk per day can increase the risk of prostate cancer by a staggering 60 percent.

In fact, regularly consuming animal protein can quadruple the risk of dying from cancer – making dietary choices just as deadly as smoking.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. By favoring plant-based foods—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes—we can dramatically minimize the risk for various types of cancer. For example, one recent study found that vegetarians can reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by 22 percent. Another study shows that women who consume the most carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables—including carrots and sweet potatoes—reduce the risk for breast cancer by about 19 percent. And compared with those who consume meat and dairy products, women who follow plant-based diets have a 34 percent decreased risk for specific cancers including breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers.                                                                                  

Like Jolie said, we can never fully eradicate the risk of developing cancer. But that doesn’t mean we should sit around and wait. Learning about our risk factors and options is a good place to start in taking a proactive, precautionary step forward.

Remembering Michio Kushi

Photo of Michio Kushi from the Kushi Institute’s Flickr page.

On Dec. 28, 2014, Michio Kushi—the man who introduced the macrobiotic diet to the Western world—passed away. He was 88. I first met Michio 30 years ago and was struck by the power of macrobiotic diets for health. Based on principles of Chinese medicine and interpreted through Japanese cuisine, this largely plant-based school of thought has helped many people regain their health.

For those unfamiliar with macrobiotic diets, I would like to reprint the experience of Anthony J. Sattilaro, M.D., from my book Foods That Fight Pain. I first met Tony in 1986. The events I will describe here began several years before.

Read the excerpt from Foods That Fight Pain

Orange Is the New Pink

This is a guest blog from Physicians Committee director of nutrition education Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.

Orange is the New Pink

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both individuals and businesses don pink ribbons in the fight against breast cancer. But while pink has become synonymous with breast cancer, orange is the color that can actually help prevent this disease.  Women who consume the most orange vegetables, which are rich in carotenoids, lower their risk of breast cancer by 19 percent.

One type of carotenoid is beta-carotene, which many people associate with carrots. The Institute of Medicine recommends women consume a daily serving of 3 to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene to reduce the risk of disease. Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene, but there are so many other foods that are packed with this immunity-boosting nutrient. One cup of butternut squash has up to three times the suggested minimum amount!

Orange is the New Pink

As we head into autumn, many carotenoid-rich vegetables are in season. Fill your grocery cart with orange foods and stop by the farmers market for some pumpkin, squash, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. Spread the word by sharing the graphic—and make sure that even if you’re wearing pink, you’re still eating orange!

Click here to take the Orange Pledge!

For more information: www.OrangeIsTheNewPink.org

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