ORDER DR. DEANNA'S NEW BOOK—THE RAINBOW DIET

The 15 Best Foods for Cancer Prevention by Cancer Type

Quick Read:

  • Nearly 40% of Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis, yet it’s estimated that a number of those cases and deaths could be prevented with lifestyle changes.
  • Dietary changes offer promising health benefits, including decreasing the risk of cancer and chronic disease.
  • While there are no guarantees, there are a number of foods that have been shown in the scientific research that may offer some protective effects as found in the table below.

 The Deeper Dive:

An estimated 38.4% of Americans will have a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. Despite advances in cancer screening and treatment, it remains beneficial to look at ways to prevent cancer, especially as it is estimated that modifiable lifestyle changes could prevent 42% of cancer cases and 45% of deaths.

One key modifiable lifestyle change that can help prevent multiple cancer types is your diet. There are promising studies showing that eating certain plant foods can decrease one’s risk of developing cancer, in addition to providing other health benefits, such as preventing chronic disease.

There is growing epidemiological evidence linking eating vegetables and fruit with a reduced risk for cancer, including many of the more common cancers such as lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer (especially for ER-PR negative tumors), digestive cancers (such as gastric cancer also known as stomach cancer), colon cancer, ovarian cancer, brain cancer, bladder cancer, and others.

Below is a table with the top plant foods to eat for cancer prevention. A few of the foods are listed as a category, such as cruciferous vegetables and berries, since many studies look at categories of food rather than individual foods. Those that also have evidence for individual foods within the category are also listed, as you will see.

In some of the studies, the protective effect of the foods was minimal, while others had a more significant association. I have not differentiated in this table, but I have only incorporated studies that have shown at least a minimal protective effect.

Disclaimer

In this blog, we are only looking at cancer prevention, not treatment. As always, please talk with your doctor, nutritionist, or other healthcare practitioner about cancer prevention before implementing any changes to your diet. It is especially important to talk with your doctor and/or oncologist before incorporating any changes if you already have a cancer diagnosis.

I based the information on this table on studies that demonstrate a decreased risk of developing cancer. Cancer, like many chronic diseases, is multi-faceted and complex, which means there are many potential causes and many actions you can take to help with prevention. However, there is no guarantee that any healthy lifestyle will be 100% cancer-proof.

For this blog, I focused on human studies, most of which were observational that correlated intake of certain foods with risk, often based on self-reporting of food intake. I also used several meta-analysis studies, which are considered the gold standard because they draw data together from many studies to come to a conclusion. Some of the studies focused on certain populations, so the exact results may not be extrapolated to other populations.

Plant Food Colon Cancer Ovarian and Cervical Cancer Digestive Cancers (Stomach, Pancreas, etc.) Breast Cancer Other Cancers (Prostate, Lung, Bladder, etc.)
Allium Vegetables[i] (such as garlic, onions, leeks, chives, etc.) X[ii] X[iii] X[iv] X[v] X[vi]
Apples[vii] X[viii]     X[ix] X[x]
Beans[xi] X[xii] X[xiii] X[xiv] X[xv] X[xvi]
Berries[xvii]     X[xviii]    
Blueberries[xix]       X[xx]  
Broccoli[xxi] X[xxii] X[xxiii] X[xxiv] X[xxv] X[xxvi]
Carrots   X[xxvii] X[xxviii] X[xxix] X[xxx]
Citrus Fruits[xxxi] X[xxxii] X[xxxiii] X[xxxiv] X[xxxv] X[xxxvi]
Cruciferous Vegetables[xxxvii] X[xxxviii] X[xxxix] X[xl] X[xli] X[xlii]
Garlic X[xliii] X[xliv] X[xlv] X[xlvi] X[xlvii]
Leafy Greens     X[xlviii] X[xlix] X[l]
Nuts[li] X[lii] X[liii] X[liv] X[lv] X[lvi]
Onions   X[lvii] X[lviii]   X[lix]
Spinach   X[lx]   X[lxi]  
Tomatoes[lxii] X[lxiii]   X[lxiv] X[lxv] X[lxvi]

 

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Nicastro, H.L., Ross, S.A., & Milner, J.A. (2015). Garlic and onions: their cancer prevention properties. Cancer Prev Res (Phila), 8(3), 181-9. DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0172. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25586902

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Tao, M.H., Xu, W.H., Zheng, W., Gao, Y.T., Ruan, Z.X., Cheng, J.R., Xiang, Y.B., & Shu, X.O. (2005). A case-control study in Shanghai of fruit and vegetable intake and endometrial cancer. Br J Cancer, 92(11), 2059-64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15886701

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Turati, F., Pelucchi, C., Guercio, V., La Vecchia, C., & Galeone, C. (2015). Allium vegetable intake and gastric cancer: a case-control study and meta-analysis. Mol Nutr Food Res, 59(1), 171-9. DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201400496. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25215621

Woo, H.D., Park, S., Oh, K., Kim, H.J., Shin, H.R., Moon, H.K., & Kim, J. (2014). Diet and cancer risk in the Korean population: a meta- analysis. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 15(19), 8509-19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25339056

Zhou, Y., Zhuang, W., Hu, W., Liu, G.J., Wu, T.X., & Wu, X.T. (2011). Consumption of large amounts of Allium vegetables reduces risk for gastric cancer in a meta-analysis. Gastroenterology, 141(1):80-9. DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.03.057. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21473867

[v] Galeone, C., Pelucchi, C., Levi, F., Negri, E., Franceschi, S., Talamini, R., Giacosa, A., & La Vecchia, C. (2006). Onion and garlic use and human cancer. Am J Clin Nutr, 84(5), 1027-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17093154

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Buchner, F.L., Bueno-de-Mesquita, H.B., Ros, M.M., Kampman, E., Egevad, L….Riboli, E. (2009). Consumption of vegetables and fruit and the risk of bladder cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Int J Cancer, 125(11), 2643-51. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.24582. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19618458

Fabiani, R., Minelli, L., & Rosignoli, P. (2016). Apple intake and cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Public Health Nutr, 19(14), 2603-17. doi: 10.1017/S136898001600032X. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27000627

Lindbald, P., Wolk, A., Bergstrom, R., & Adami, H.O. (1997). Diet and risk of renal cell cancer: a population-based case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 6(4), 215-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9107425

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Chan, J.M., Wang, F., & Holly, E.A. (2005). Vegetable and fruit intake and pancreatic cancer in a population-based case-control study in the San Francisco bay area. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 14(9), 2093-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16172215

Jansen, R.J., Robinson, D.P., Stolzenberg-Solomon, R.Z., Bamlet, W.R., de Andrade, M….Petersen, G.M. (2011). Fruit and vegetable consumption is inversely associated with having pancreatic cancer. Cancer Causes Control, 22(12), 1613-25. DOI: 10.1007/s10552-011-9838-0. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21915615

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Foschi, R., Pelucchi, C., Dal Maso, L,. Rossi, M., Levi, F….La Vecchia, C. (2010). Citrus fruit and cancer risk in a network of case-control studies. Cancer Causes Control, 21(2), 237-42. DOI: 10.1007/s10552-009-9454-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19856118

Jansen, R.J., Robinson, D.P., Stolzenberg-Solomon, R.Z., Bamlet, W.R., de Andrade, M….Petersen, G.M. (2011). Fruit and vegetable consumption is inversely associated with having pancreatic cancer. Cancer Causes Control, 22(12), 1613-25. DOI: 10.1007/s10552-011-9838-0. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21915615

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  1. Tom Commeau

    Good study. Makes good sense to me. Good topic for a video webinar or a book. As always, most impressed with your work and focus.

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