Cancer prevention foods have been an area of scientific study. Let us first look at some facts on cancer. According to the Cancer Statistics Center of the American Cancer Society, a total of 1.74 million new cancer cases and 0.61 million deaths from cancer occurred in the United States in 2016 (American Cancer Society, 2016). It is an alarming mortality rate, despite the massive global research effort to cure various cancers.
The failure of modern medicine to find a satisfactory and cost-effective solution to cancer has led many patients to turn to complementary alternative medicine, superfoods, herbal formulations, and even charms for relief. A 2018 survey of Chinese-speaking cancer patients found that 65% used alternative or complementary medicine. (Balneaves et al., 2018).
The science of cancer prevention is still evolving. There is no single cause or solution for preventing and treating various cancers that affect humanity. My research on natural solutions for various ailments has helped me gather cancer causes, and prevention facts do point to the value of cancer prevention foods. Let me summarise these here:
Cancer is a lifestyle disease. Genetic causes increase the susceptibility of otherwise healthy individuals, suddenly triggering cancer. However, the trigger is often caused by external stimuli. These could be environmental, physical, physiological, or something else we have not yet discovered. Scientists have lumped these factors together and called them epigenetic factors.
Food is an important, but not the sole, supporting factor. Fruits and vegetables are rich in phytochemicals—which help build body immunity. Vitamins B and D and calcium in plants and other foods have cancer-preventive properties. Dietary fiber found in whole grains, seeds, legumes, pulses, vegetables, fruit, and products made from these helps easily evacuate stool. Plant-based phytochemical-rich foods help regulate estrogen, slow cancer cell growth, and block inflammation.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, related vegetables, lycopene found in tomato products, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and apricots protect against several types of cancers. They are some of the more popular cancer-prevention foods.
On the other hand, red meat is said to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Processed meats should be as far as possible avoided. Obesity also increases the risk of cancer (Prevention and Healthy Living).
No single antioxidant molecule has been found to replace the health benefits of a combination of natural phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. Consumers need to eat 5–10 servings of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily to mitigate the risk of chronic diseases and to meet nutrient requirements essential for optimum health (Liu, 2004).
Dietary phytochemicals act as modulators of cellular signals that trigger proteins that make cells turn cancerous (Lee et al., 2001). In both preclinical animal models and human studies, dietary phytochemicals were cancer-preventive (Lee et al., 2013).
Turmeric (curcumin), red chili (capsaicin), cloves (eugenol), ginger (zerumbone), fennel (anethole), kokum (gambogic acid), fenugreek (diosgenin), black cumin (thymoquinone) contain chemicals—shown in the bracket after each herb—that prevent cancer (Aggarwal et al., 2008).
The science of food in preventing cancers is vast, and there is much more to it than what I have outlined above. But, please remember, cancer prevention foods are just one mode of preventing cancers.
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