One of the most frequently asked questions I encounter when performing health screening examinations is: “Which tests can I have performed to check whether I have cancer?” As any clinician will tell you, there is no simple answer to this question.
Most imaging and diagnostic tests are usually only performed to confirm the diagnostic suspicion of cancer based on a suggestive history and clinical examination.
Most cancers are caused by a complex interaction between an existing genetic predisposition and environmental/lifestyle factors. In my opinion, a far more proactive way of approaching your cancer risk, is by examining those factors which you can actively control.
Almost half of all cancers diagnosed in the UK every year are caused by avoidable and modifiable lifestyle choices such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity. Yes, you have read that correctly, poor dietary choices and carrying too much weight can actively increase your cancer risk.
After smoking, the leading cancer risk factor in women is obesity (6.9% of cases) and in men, it’s a lack of fruit and vegetables in their diet (6.1% of cases). One of the simplest and most effective ways to promote good health and help protect against cancer is through your diet.
Let’s have a look at the foods which have the ability to stave of cancer or even inhibit cancer cell growth and reduce tumour size. Of course, the list does not cover all anti-cancer edibles, but these are my TOP 10 ALL STARS and a good starting point.
1. Broccoli, especially sprouts contain the phytochemical Sulforaphane, which can aid in the prevention of certain cancers, like colon and rectal cancer. Sulforaphane also aids in the production of certain enzymes that can deactivate free radicals and carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). These enzymes have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumours in tests.
2. Spinach & Kale contain nitrogen compounds called Indoles, which may help to stop the progression of certain lesions to cancerous cells in estrogen-sensitive tissues (e.g. breast tissue). In addition, Isothiocyanates found in kale, are thought to suppress tumour growth and block cancer-causing substances from reaching their targets.
[stextbox id=”warning” shadow=”true” color=”ff0000″]Broccoli sprouts have been developed under the trade name BroccoSprouts which contain as much as 20 times more sulforaphane than the levels found in mature heads of broccoli.[/stextbox]
3. Carrots are a rich source of Beta carotene, which may help prevent a wide range of cancers including lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, bladder, prostate and breast cancers. According to researchers at Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences (DIAS), a substance called Falcarinol, also abundant in carrots, has been found to reduce the rate at which tumour cells grow. Falcarinol is only present in raw carrots, and is inactivated through cooking/steaming.
4. Grapefruit and other citrus fruits, contain Monoterpenes, believed to help prevent cancer by removing carcinogens from the body. Some studies show that grapefruit may inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro.
6. Tomatoes are a rich source of Lycopene. An increased intake of lycopene has been linked to a reduced risk of breast, prostate, pancreas and colorectal cancer. Lycopene is concentrated by cooking tomatoes and higher quantities are present in tomato pastes and purees.
7. Raspberries contain various plant compounds and antioxidants known as Anthocyanins which may protect against cancer. According to a recent study published in Cancer Research (2001;61:6112-6119), rats which were fed diets of containing 5 to 10 percent black raspberries, saw a decrease in the number of esophageal tumors. Research reported in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in May 2002, revealed that black raspberries may also thwart colon cancer.
8. Chilli’s contain Capsaicin, a chemical which can neutralise certain cancer-causing substances like nitrosamines and may help to prevent cancers such as stomach cancer.
9. Garlic has immune-enhancing Allium compounds (dialyl sultides) that appear to increase the activity of immune cells that fight cancer. These substances also block carcinogens from entering cells and slow tumour development. Research published in the October 2000 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that people who consume raw or cooked garlic regularly, face about half the risk of stomach cancer and two-thirds the risk of colorectal cancer as people who eat little or none!
10. Green Tea contains the polyphenolic substance Catechin, which appears to prevent cancer cells from dividing. Studies have also suggested that these polyphenols which are abundant in green tea, may protect against cancer of the stomach, lung, colon, rectum, liver and pancreas.