Lowering Your Cancer Risk: New Guidelines from the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society recently updated their guidelines for improved lifestyle choices to help decrease cancer risks.   It is not surprising to see that many of the new guidelines involve new research findings, including more information about better nutrition, physical activity and lifestyle choices.

The last set of guidelines from the American Cancer Society were published in 2012.  Since then updates based on new evidence surrounding a more rounded approach to better lifestyle choices have been included in the new recommendations.

Laura Makaroff, DO, American Cancer Society senior vice president, Prevention and Early Detection, states,” The guideline is based on current science and shows that how you eat, rather than specific foods or nutrients, is important in reducing the risk of cancer and boosting overall health.”  Makaroff goes on to say, “There is no one food or even food group that is adequate to achieve a significant reduction in cancer risk. People should eat whole foods, not individual nutrients, because evidence continues to suggest that healthy dietary patterns are associated with reduced risk for cancer, especially colorectal and breast cancers.”

The Guideline on Diet and Physical Health for Cancer Prevention stresses an emphasis on a realistic

combination of following a healthy eating pattern, avoiding or limiting alcohol, staying active

throughout your life and maintaining a healthy weight. The American Cancer Society notes that at least

18% of cancer cases are due to at least some combination of these lifestyle factors.

According to the Rogel Cancer Center in Michigan, the nutrition found in plant-based foods is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals and fiber.  These nutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of several forms of cancer.  A diet that includes healthy proteins such as fish and poultry, with a reduction in consumption of red meat, processed foods, sugar and alcohol is part of the updated recommendations from the American Cancer Society.  High consumption of red meat and processed meats, such as bacon, hotdogs and luncheon meats, is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer.  There may be a connection to prostate  cancer, breast cancer, and other cancers as well.

Should you give up red meat completely?   The jury is still out. However the American Cancer Society simply recommends making better choices such as fish or poultry or plant-based proteins such as beans and pulses instead of choosing red meat.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the winner is color.  The guidelines suggest that  focusing on dark green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, orange vegetables such as squash, yams, and carrots, and red vegetables such as beets, bell peppers, tomatoes and cabbage, will give you the rich variety of color and nutrients you need to maintain good health.   The same emphasis goes for fruit;  choosing a variety of colorful fruit is important as well.   

The guidelines clearly state that eating at least  1.5-2cups of fruit and 2.5-3cups of vegetables each day is necessary to help lower cancer risk.

Pulses, such as black beans, lentils, and chickpeas are also encouraged as healthy addition to our daily diet.  The American Cancer Society emphasizes that whole grain foods that are rich in fiber are strong allies in the protection against colorectal cancer.

Get Moving and Stay Moving for Good Health

Exercise continues to be an important part of any healthy lifestyle recommendation. The American Cancer Society says maintaining a healthy body weight and losing weight if you are overweight are important to help lower the risk of certain cancers.    Furthermore, getting at least 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, or any combination of the two adding up to at least 300 minutes per week is the best for seeing health benefits.    Easy lifestyle changes include spending less time watching TV, putting down the computer or tablet and getting teens and children up and moving.  

In addition to the American Cancer Society, the Canadian Cancer Society reminds people that in today’s busy world finding time to exercise is always a challenge for people, but even starting with 10 minutes a day and building up to at least 30 minutes of activity per day is important.

The Canadian Cancer Society also states that approximately 4 in 10 cancers can be prevented through healthier lifestyle choices and policies that protect the health of Canadians.    Their easy recommendation includes healthy choices including vegetables, fruit, protein, and whole grain foods.

Visualize your plate and visualize your health

The Canadian Cancer Society suggests that one of the easiest ways to ensure you are eating a balanced diet is to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Fill another quarter of your plate with whole grain food.  Fill the final quarter of your plate with healthy lean protein.  Combined with the recommendations from the American Cancer Society, you will be well on your way to ensuring that each meal you have is colorful, full of variety, and filled with cancer preventing goodness.

Sources: American Cancer Society www.cancer.org  ; Canadian Cancer Society www.cancer.ca ; Rogel Cancer Center www.rogelcancercenter.org