Setting the Record Straight: The Impact of Diet on Cancer Risk

Photo: Flickr/Mike65444

An article posted earlier this week on the New York Times website stated that the link between diet and cancer risk was, in essence, a “myth.”  And while links between diet and cancer are not as strong as those with some other chronic diseases, like heart disease, the article’s conclusions demonstrate a lack of understanding of the science.

Yesterday, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) – whose reports were referenced in the piece – posted their own response to the article detailing many links between diet and cancer, with AICR Director of Research, Susan Higginbotham, PhD, RD, stating: “If there’s one thing AICR’s research has shown, and continues to show, it’s that when it comes to cancer risk, diet does matter.”

As detailed in many of our scientific publications, consumer brochures, and risk assessment tools, we agree. Diet has an important impact on cancer risk.  Calories alone, and the weight gain they can cause, can impact at least 11 different cancers.  Too much alcohol is a key risk factor for colon and breast cancer – even at moderate levels of intake.  Fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of certain types of breast cancer.  Too much red meat – particularly processed meats – can substantially increase colon cancer risk.  Adequate calcium and vitamin D can lower colon cancer risk. And inadequate folate (a B vitamin found in many plant foods) has been linked to overall cancer mortality.  Strong associations with other dietary risk factors are quickly developing.

The message that cancer is a disease that can be prevented is extremely important.  It is also a message that is still just gaining momentum with both physicians and the public.  To greatly downplay the potential impact of diet on cancer risk is not true to the science and can lead to important missed opportunities for prevention.

Prevention Resources

Our 8IGHT WAYS® series is filled with great tips for improving your health and lowering cancer risk.

8IGHT WAYS to Stay Healthy and Prevent Cancer  

8IGHT WAYS to Prevent Breast Cancer 

8IGHT WAYS to Prevent Colon Cancer 

CANCER SURVIVORS’ 8IGHT WAYS to Stay Healthy After Cancer

Our popular risk assessment tools are also great resources for learning about your risk and getting personalized prevention plans.

Your Disease Risk website 

Zuum – Health Tracker app for iPad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *