5 foods to prevent cancer Feb 11, 2019

Cancer… What is it?

Cancer is a disease in which there are abnormal cell multiplication and growth and these cells have the potential to spread and invade to other parts of our body. There are two types of tumors broadly-

A) Malignant (Cancerous) -which spreads or has the ability to spread and

B) Benign which do not spread to other parts of the body.

Risk factors

Endogenous factors:-

  1. Age
  2. Sex
  3. Hereditary
  4. Hormones
  5. Immunity

Exogenous factors are:-

  1. Environmental factors include biological and chemical agents. These factors cause genetic alterations to create a transformed cell, which grows into a neoplasm or cancerous growth.
  2. Radiation: Radiant energy in the form of ionizing radiation, UV rays and even in thermal form is carcinogenic.

Lifestyle factors:-

  1. Obesity- Epidemiological studies have shown that obesity is associated with increased risk of several cancer types, including colon, endometrium, postmenopausal breast, kidney, esophagus, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, and some hematological malignancies. In addition, obesity can lead to poorer treatment result, worsened outcomes, and increased cancer-related mortality.
  2. Tobacco Smoking- Smoking is by far the most important cause of cancer in high-income countries. Cigarette smoke contains free radicals and induces oxidative damage in humans.


  1. Fibrous foods –

Fiber is observed to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer as fiber increases stool bulk and increases the transit time of food through the colon, thus diluting the gut contents and perhaps reducing the absorption of carcinogens by the colon.

Low intake of fruits and vegetables or high intakes of refined flour or sugar (rather than low intakes of fiber) increase risk of cancer through chronic hyperinsulinemia.

Fruits and vegetables are the best fiber sources.

  1. Fruits and vegetables-

Some studies have suggested that intake of tomato products, high in lycopene, protects from prostate cancer (refer to my blog on ‘Lycopene’) and that consumption of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc is also inversely associated with bladder cancer incidence.

Carotenoids, flavonoids and many other crucial minerals and vitamins found in vegetables and fruits have anti-cancer properties like they prevent cancer from spreading etc.

Fruits and vegetables are also rich sources of fibers, both soluble and insoluble.

Best cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables-

a) Carotenoids-

ß carotene- carrots, pumpkin, and leafy green vegetables

Lycopene- Tomatoes, watermelon, papaya and orange

Lutein- Spinach and Kale

Zeaxanthin- Squash, peas, cabbage, and orange


Quercetin- Onion, broccoli, apples, and berries

Isoflavonoids- Soybean and soy products

Anthocyanidins- Cherries and strawberries

  1. Polyphenols-

At the cellular level, there is good evidence that polyphenols present in tea, cocoa, fruit juices, and olive oil influence carcinogenesis and tumor development.

It remains a possibility that specific fruits or vegetables, or specific polyphenols found within these, may exert protective effects against cancer development, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract where they will be at the highest concentration. In fact, numerous investigations have demonstrated that various polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables are particularly effective in protecting against colon cancer development.

Polyphenols may exert these anticancer effects via a variety of mechanisms, including removal of carcinogenic agents, modulation of cancer cell signaling and cell cycle progression, promotion of apoptosis (programmed cell death) and modulation of enzymatic activities.

Sources- Fruits, vegetables, tea, olive oil etc

  1. Curcumin in Haldi-

It is a natural polyphenolic compound abundantly found in the rhizome of the perennial Indian herb turmeric. It is widely used as a dietary spice, coloring agent in cooking and as a herb in traditional Indian medicine. Curcumin exhibits a wide range of pharmacological activities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-infectious activities.

Besides showing inherent cytotoxicity against malignant cells, curcumin has additionally been shown to modulate radio and chemosensitivity of cancer cells.

In several animal models, curcumin’s inhibitory effect on carcinogenesis has been demonstrated on various tumor types including oral cancer, mammary carcinoma, and intestinal tumors.

Source- Haldi (Turmeric)

(However, at higher concentrations or under certain conditions (e.g., in the presence of transition metal ions), curcumin also exhibits pro-oxidant properties and may promote free radical generation.)

  1. Vitamin C –

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a nutrient found in food and its dietary supplements are also available in the market. In a study, it was found that ascorbic acid is associated with tumor regression in advanced disease and improved tolerability and side effects of standard therapy.

Vitamin C sources may also protect against esophageal cancers.

Sources include -lemons, amla, kiwi, oranges, guava, and all citrus fruits.

There are literally thousands of published peer-reviewed studies demonstrating that the 10,000+ phytonutrients in plants have the ability to prevent cancer! In spite of the fact that selecting cancer-fighting foods at the grocery store and at mealtime can’t guarantee cancer prevention, good choices may definitely help reduce your risk for it.

Things to remember to reduce your risk of cancer-

  1. Eat a balanced diet.
  2. Eat calmly and with a relaxed state of mind.
  3. Avoid fatty, fried and oily foods which are sources of trans fat (a good carcinogen)
  4. Drink plenty of water.
  5. Prefer drinking lemon water over sodas/soft drinks etc.
  6. Include natural colors in your meals i.e.
    1. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, cabbage etc 
    2. Yellow-orange fruits and foods Orange, papaya, banana, carrots, lemon, guava etc 
    3. Red and pink foods like tomatoes, strawberries, pomegranate, beetroot, watermelon, pink guava, apples, cherries etc
  7. Be active, avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Engage in any physical activity for at least 30mins every day.
  8. Limit the consumption of 3 harmful whites- salt, maida, and sugar.
  9. Avoid ‘Western Diet’­- refined flour, bakery products, pizza, soda, burgers, bread etc.


Remember- You are what you EAT!


Afshan Hussain Ali

Hello! I'm Afshan, a Registered Dietitian with a postgraduate degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Diabetes Educator residing in Nagpur. It is my endeavor to use my education,

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