Parker Hughes Cancer Center

Individualized Care  


Areas of Expertise  




Nutritional Aspects of Care

Scientific evidence suggests that about one-third of cancer deaths that occur in the US each year are due to the adult diet, including its effect on obesity. Another third is due to cigarette smoking. Therefore, for the majority of Americans who do not use tobacco, dietary choices and physical activity become the most important modifiable determinants of cancer risk. The introduction of healthful diet and exercise practices at any time from childhood to old age can promote health and probably reduce cancer risk.

Although no diet can guarantee full protection against any disease, the following recommendations offer the best nutrition information currently available to help Americans reduce their risk of cancer.

Choose most of the foods you eat from plant sources

Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day; eat other foods from plant sources, such as breads, cereals, grain products, rice, pasta, or beans several times each day. Many scientific studies show that eating fruits and vegetables protect against cancers at many sites, particularly for cancers of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Grains are an important source of many vitamins and minerals and have been associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in some studies. Beans (legumes) are especially rich in nutrients that may protect against cancer.

Limit your intake of high-fat foods, particularly from animal sources

Choose foods low in fat; limit consumption of meats, especially high-fat meats. High-fat diets have been associated with an increase in the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum, prostate, and endometrium.

Be physically active: achieve and maintain a healthy weight

Physical activity can help protect against some cancers, either by balancing caloric intake with energy expenditure or by other mechanisms. An imbalance of caloric intake and energy output can lead to being overweight or obese, and to increased risk for cancers at several sites: colon and rectum, prostate, endometrium, breast, and kidney.

Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages, along with cigarette smoking and use of snuff and chewing tobacco, cause cancers of the oral cavity, esophagus, and larynx. Studies also have noted an association between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer. Studies show that beginning with an intake of just a few drinks a week the risk of breast cancer increases.

Source: American Cancer Society Importance of Nutrtion in Cancer Awareness, last revised 05/11/99.