Cancer is scary — that much, we understand. In 2018, the American Cancer Society projects that approximately 1,735,350 new cancer cases and 609,640 cancer deaths will occur in the United States. You want to protect yourself and your loved ones from being one of those millions of people; there are lifestyle changes and habits that can help reduce your risk.
Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, abstaining from cigarettes, participating in physical activity, and regularly checking in with your doctor are great places to start.
The good news is that the rate of new cancer diagnoses is actually on the decline. So is the number of deaths caused by cancer — from 2006 to 2015, the cancer death rate declined by about 1.5 percent annually in both men and women. So America’s outlook on fighting cancer is not without progress.
Given the fear of cancer and desperate attempts to avoid it, rumors have circulated about foods that “cause cancer.” The fact is no one food is going to cause cancer in a person — though certain foods eaten in excess over a long period of time can increase your risk. These 10 foods, though, do not cause cancer, and avoiding them entirely is not necessary.
In moderation, alcohol will not give you cancer. If you’re binge drinking regularly, you might have a thing or two to worry about — though cancer is probably not the most pressing concern on that list. One or two drinks now and then, however, are pretty benign. Some studies show that certain drinks, such as red wine, can actually decrease your risk of multiple types of cancer. Others show that people who drink in moderation live longer than those who abstain.
While some studies exist linking dairy consumption to an increased risk of cancer, these studies are examining a really high level of intake. Putting cow’s milk in your cereal or putting cheese on your sandwich will probably not increase your risk — according to a comprehensive review of the data by Healthline, most of the evidence is either inconsistent or only pertains to excess consumption. As long as you’re consuming dairy in moderation and not eating more than two servings every single day, you’re in the clear.
People’s biggest concern regarding eggs is cholesterol. However, eggs eaten in moderation have been shown to have a negligible effect on your cholesterol — just don’t consistently eat more than two a day. Not only are eggs not immediately bad for your cholesterol, but your cholesterol doesn’t even have a link to cancer risk at all. What cholesterol most significantly impacts is your risk of heart disease — that’s a whole different ball game.
Genetically modified crops sound scary because they seem unnatural and manufactured. However, genetic modification often doesn’t alter the crops in any way that’s harmful to human health. According to a study published in the National Academies of Science, GMOs haven’t caused as much harm as many think. The team of 50 scientists, researchers, and agricultural and industry experts reviewed more than 900 studies and data covering the 20 years since genetically modified crops were first introduced. They found that GMOs have not caused increases in cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal illnesses, kidney disease, autism, or allergies. Instead, GMOs saved many farmers a lot of money. Though there are ethical considerations when discussing GMOs, the fear around cancer from the organisms is unfounded.
Gluten gets a bad rap because it’s a main component in bread, cupcakes, cookies, white flour, and other foods we typically think of as “unhealthy.” But gluten is just a type of protein that occurs naturally in some crops and shouldn’t be feared — unless you’re legitimately allergic. Click here for some other myths about gluten you should probably stop believing.
Non-organic foods are often coated in pesticides, contain additives, or have some other unnatural addition to them during processing. However, the chances that you’ll get cancer from eating these pieces of produce are slim to none. As the American Cancer Society explains, “New food additives must be cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being allowed into the food supply, and thorough testing is done in lab animals to determine any effects on cancer as part of this process.” These additives are, for the most part, safe. Pesticides and other chemicals used during farming “are not known to directly cause cancer, but they may influence cancer risk in other ways.” Bottom line is that the risks exist, but are extremely minor.
Processed meats, such as hot dogs, salami, ham, and bacon, have been linked to cancer risk when eaten in larger quantities. It would probably not be wise to eat a hot dog every day. However, red meats — especially lean red meats — are not always processed and actually have important nutrients that can help you ward off cancer as you age. According to the Cancer Council, red meats provide iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and protein. The organization also notes, “In terms of cancer risk there is no reason to cut meat completely from your diet.” Make sure you aren’t loading up on burgers and steak, but eating red meat in moderation is probably fine.
Because soy contains isoflavones, similar to estrogen, some fear it may increase their risk of breast cancer. However, according to the American Cancer Society, soy also contains anti-estrogen properties, and “moderate consumption of soy foods appears safe for both breast cancer survivors and the general population, and may even lower breast cancer risk.” Instead of worrying about soy, consult this list for the foods you should eat to cut your breast cancer risk.
According to the Mayo Clinic, sugar does not accelerate cancer growth. All cells, including cancer cells, brain cells, skin cells, and every single other cell in your body, rely on sugar for energy. However, increasing the amount of sugar you eat does not accelerate the growth of cancer cells. The Mayo Clinic does note that there is a small amount of evidence suggesting that excessive sugar consumption over a long period of time is linked to certain types of cancer. But is it okay for you to eat sugar? Nutritionists confirm it — yes, eating sugar is okay.