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Diet and Lung Cancer Prevention


Updated June 06, 2014

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Many studies have looked at the link between diet and cancer prevention. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recently reviewed all articles to date. Based on that review, they estimate that 30 to 40% of cancers could be prevented based on a healthy diet and moderate exercise alone. For those already diagnosed with cancer, they recommend following the guidelines for prevention, and to help prevent recurrence.

AICR Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

  • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.

  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.

  • Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods. (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fiber, or high in fat.)

  • Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.

  • Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.

  • If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.

  • Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).

  • Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer. (Studies have found that those who take supplements of vitamin E and b-carotene actually have an increased risk of developing lung cancer.)

Diet and Exercise in Lung Cancer Prevention

Several studies have looked at diet and exercise specifically in the prevention of lung cancer. Highlights of these studies that looked at certain foods and exercise include:

  • Moderate exercise – even gardening 1 to 2 times per week – lowered the risk of lung cancer in several studies.

  • A high fat diet raised the risk of lung cancer.

  • Diets high in fruit are associated with a lower risk of lung cancer, and in fact, the National Cancer Institute has estimated that foods high in flavenoids, such as apples, can lower the risk of lung cancer by 50%.

  • In women, the intake of dairy products and vegetables has been linked with a lower risk of lung cancer in smokers, and black tea with a lower risk in non-smokers.

  • Foods high in lutein, such as collard greens, spinach, broccoli, and orange juice, are associated with a lower risk of lung cancer.

  • Foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes and especially tomato sauces, are linked with a lower risk of lung cancer.

  • Smokers that drink green tea appear to have decreased oxidative DNA damage, a genetic change that predisposes to cancer.

American Institute for Cancer Prevention Recommendations for Cancer Prevention. Recommendations based on the Second Expert Report. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. Accessed 12/22/10.

A case-control study of lifestyle and lung cancer associations by histological types. 2008. Kubik, A. et al. Neoplasma. 55(3):196-9.

Interactions between smoking and other exposures associated with lung cancer risk in women: diet and physical activity. 2007. Kubic, A. et al. Neoplasma. 51(1):83-8.

Effect of a 4-month tea intervention on oxidative DNA damage among heavy smokers: role of glutathione S-transferase genotypes. 2004. Hakim, I. et al. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. 13920:241-9.

Dietary carotenoids, serum beta-carotene, and retinol and risk of lung cancer in the alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene cohort study. 2002. Holick, C. et al. American Journal of Epidemiology. 156(6):536-47.

Long-Term Use of Supplemental Multivitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Folate Does Not Reduce the Risk of Lung Cancer. Slatore, C. et al. 2008. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 177(524-530).

The Effect of Vitamin E and Beta Carotene on the Incidence of Lung Cancer and Other Cancers in Male Smokers. Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group The Alpha-Tocopherol. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1994. 330(1029-1035).

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