October is the month of Breast Cancer Awareness, marked in countries across the world. It helps increase attention and support the early detection, treatment, and palliative care of this disease.
There are about over one million new cases of breast cancer each year. It is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in developed and developing countries.
When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance of cancer eradication. Currently, there is not sufficient evidence of the exact causes of breast cancer. Nevertheless, the incidences have been rising steadily in the last years due to increased life expectancy, increased urbanization, and the adoption of a western-modern lifestyle.
Today, Western lifestyle influences the population's choice of recreation, clothing, and goods consumption. We talked about the western diet or the cafeteria diet in the previous post. A modern diet consists of high intakes of processed meat, pre-packaged foods, fried foods, refined cereals, high-sugar drinks, and low intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and seeds.
Research between the link of cancer and diet has pointed toward certain foods and nutrients that may help prevent or, conversely, contribute to certain types of cancer. While there are many factors you can't change that increase your cancer risks, such as genetics and environment, there are others you can control, like your diet.
Currently, processed meats are the only food group classified by The World Health Organization as carcinogenic to humans. These meats are modified to extend their shelf life. Methods of meat processing include smoking, fermentation, salting, and nitrites addition to enhance flavor.
They are usually composed of pork, and more often than not, it contains lesser organ meats-products such as intestines and blood. Processed meat products include bacon, ham, sausages, salami, jerky and canned meat.
The connection between processed meat and cancer is consistent. For instance, studies on colorectal cancer, which is the third most diagnosed cancer in men, found that eating processed meat daily is associated with a 20% increase in colorectal cancer risk.
"Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in men;
eating processed meat every day can increase the risk by a
Furthermore, cancer prevention is a matter of lifestyle. To single out one type of food is not enough. Combining a good diet with other healthy habits like regular exercise can further lower your risk. Therefore, weight management is critical. Modifying your diet and physical activity can keep your weight under control. Evidence shows that a higher body fat index increases the risk of developing some of the most common cancers.
The connection? Excess body fat produces more estrogen in our bodies. A surplus of estrogen triggers an inflammatory response that can promote tumor cell growth. Being overweight or obese is linked to an overall increased risk of cancer.
According to research from the American Cancer Society, excess body fat is responsible for about 11% of cancers in women and about 5% of cancers in men in the United States.
The timing of weight gain might also affect cancer risk. Being overweight during childhood and young adulthood might be more of a risk factor than gaining weight later in life for some cancers.
For example, some research suggests that overweight women as teenagers may be at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer before menopause.
In other words, early childhood dietary patterns are pivotal to establish a healthy balanced diet. Healthful nutrition provides children with the nutrients they need. Also, staying active ensures a healthy body weight to keep hormone levels checked, aligning youth diets with evolving scientific evidence regarding cancer prevention.
Antonio Gomez, RDN, Nutritionist at Wholefort