Common questions about diet and cancer

November 12, 2021 Cancer Care

Common questions about diet and cancer

After a diagnosis, it is very common to have questions surrounding nutrition and cancer. People want to know how they can change their diet in the hope that it will help to reduce the risk of cancer coming back. Although there is not enough clear information to give advice about what people should eat depending on their type of cancer, there are common factors that are most likely to improve an individual’s health after cancer treatment. This includes eating a healthy balanced diet, keeping to a healthy weight and engaging in regular activity.

Questions

Can certain foods cause cancer?

Diet is a lifestyle factor that can influence the risk of developing cancer. There are a few foods that may potentially increase the risk of cancer. Poor eating habits, combined with other lifestyle factors including high alcohol intake, smoking, being overweight and too much sunlight exposure, can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancers.

Should I only eat organic food?

Many people believe that eating organic food is a better alternative as food is grown and produced without using synthetic pesticides or fertilisers. Despite this, there is little scientific evidence that eating organic foods is better for you and reduces the risk of getting cancer. Eating a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables can help reduce risk- whether they are organically or conventionally produced.

Does having a healthy diet reduce my risk for cancer?

Yes, having a healthy and balanced diet can reduce the risk of cancer. As mentioned previously, a diet of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein may help to prevent cancer.

How important is exercise?

Physical activity, along with eating a healthy balanced diet, is important for general health and wellbeing. Cancer Council NSW states that exercise is recommended for most people during and after cancer treatment.  Research shows that physical activity can: help manage fatigue and other common side effects of cancer treatment, speed up recovery, improve circulation and energy levels, reduce stress and improve your mood and improve quality of life. It is recommended to check with an oncologist or GP and see a physiotherapist develop an exercise plan that suits your situation.

Should I take mineral, vitamin or herb supplements?

For most people, a healthy diet, balanced diet will provide all nutrients they need. It might help to take multivitamins or a mineral supplement if you find eating a balanced diet challenging. It is recommended that you speak to your doctor, nurse or dietician before considering taking any supplements or multivitamins.

Does processed and red meat cause cancer?

There is very strong evidence that processed meats can cause cancer. Research shows that there are certain chemicals in red and processed meats that cause foods to be carcinogic. The World Health Organisation has classified processed meats as Group 1 carcinogen and red meats as Group 2A carcinogen. This can increase the risk of bowel and stomach cancer.

Additional Resources

To learn more about food myths linked to cancer, follow the link.

To discover delicious, healthy recipes created with cancer prevention in mind, follow the link.