Prevent Cancer Costs by Preventing Cancer

A new report shows that global spending on cancer drugs reached $100 billion last year—a 10.3 percent increase from 2013. Experts predict that, at this rate, spending on cancer medicine will reach $147 billion by 2018.

But we could potentially save billions by halting the rise of lifestyle cancers. Approximately one-third of cancer cases are preventable, according to the World Health Organization. And the American Institute for Cancer Research states that a healthy diet and other lifestyle changes can prevent an estimated 340,000 cancer cases per year.

Physicians Committee doctors and dietitians released a list of six dietary recommendations to help individuals lower their cancer risk. Read the recommendations below to learn how you can help improve your health. After all, prevention is the best form of treatment!

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The six dietary recommendations to reduce risk of several types of cancer are:

1. Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Findings: Consuming thirty-five grams of dairy protein each day, the equivalent of one large cup of cottage cheese, increases risk of prostate cancer by 32 percent. Drinking two glasses of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent.

2. Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast.

Findings: One drink per week increases risk of mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers by 24 percent. Two to three drinks per day increase risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

3. Avoid red and processed meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. 

Findings: Each 50-gram daily serving of processed meat, equivalent to two slices of bacon or one sausage link, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. Each 120-gram daily serving of red meat, equivalent to a small steak, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 28 percent.

4. Avoid grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.

Findings: Four types of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are associated with cancer of the colon and rectum. HCAs form from creatine and amino acids in cooked skeletal muscle, increasing with higher cooking times and higher temperatures. When ingested, HCAs can disrupt DNA synthesis.

5. Consume soy products to reduce risk of breast cancer and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer

Findings: Evidence from Asian and Western countries shows that soy products are associated with reduced cancer risk. Chinese women who consume more than 11.3 grams of soy protein, equivalent to half a cup of cooked soybeans, each day during adolescence have a 43 percent reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer, compared with women who consume 1.7 grams.

Research in Shanghai shows that women with breast cancer who consume 11 grams of soy protein each day can reduce mortality and risk of recurrence by about 30 percent.  U.S. populations show similar findings: the higher the isoflavone intake from soy products, the less risk of mortality and recurrence in women with breast cancer.

6. Emphasize fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer. 

Findings: Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, help reduce overall cancer risk. A high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, is associated with an 18 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer and reduced risk of lung and stomach cancers.

Women who consume the most carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, lower their risk of breast cancer by 19 percent. Overall, women who consume the highest quantities of any kind of fruit or vegetable reduce breast cancer risk by 11 percent.  A high intake of tomato products has been shown to reduce risk of gastric cancer by 27 percent. Garlic and other allium vegetables, such as onions, significantly reduce risk for gastric cancer, while a Western diet (high amounts of meat and fat with minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables) doubles the risk.

Doctors Helping Teachers School Kids on Healthy Eating

On March 26, the McDonald’s in Oxford, N.C., held a “McTeacher’s Night,” in which West Oxford Elementary School teachers worked behind the fast-food counter, selling burgers and chicken nuggets to kids in an effort to raise money. Campaigns like the Coalition for Healthy School Food and the Physicians Committee’s Healthy School Lunches initiative have been working to get this type of unhealthful fare out of the school cafeteria—and for good reason.

According to a report published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 17 percent of children in the United States are obese. In North Carolina, 16 percent of children aged 10 to 17 are obese. Junk food like pizza, bacon, and burgers are some of the top sources of saturated fat in the American diet. (The highest source? Cheese.) The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Red and processed meat products have also been linked to various forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels.

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In a letter to the school principal, the Physicians Committee detailed the ramifications that come from feeding kids a diet full of saturated fat and cholesterol. But we want to help West Oxford Elementary School get a passing grade in nutrition! We’ve offered to sponsor a trip to the local farmers market as well as a tour of Granville Medical Center.

Do you know a school that needs a nutrition overhaul? Send them our Resources for Schools.

Or if you know a school that offers healthful, plant-based meals for its students, nominate them for a Golden Carrot Award at GoldenCarrotAwards.org!

Physician Profile: Kim Williams, M.D.

This physician profile is republished from the Winter 2015 edition of Good Medicine. Dr. Williams will be speaking at our upcoming conference on the topic of a plant-based diet for cardiovascular disease. To learn more or register for the International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease, visit PCRM.org/Conference.

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Kim Williams, M.D., president of the American College of Cardiology, will be among the world’s leading physicians and researchers speaking at the Physicians Committee’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease on July 31 to Aug. 1, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

In this Good Medicine exclusive, Dr. Williams, who began following a vegan diet in 2003, answers questions about the state of heart disease and tips for preventing it.

Describe nutrition or lifestyle recommendations that you discuss with your patients.

Everyone who is able should exercise for at least 45 minutes most days of the week. But food quality and content are also important. High fat and high sugar content increases mortality. Plant-based diets lead to better outcomes, reduce health risks, and have a much more favorable effect on obesity, compared with the standard American diet.

What is the one thing someone can do today to improve their heart health?

Everyone needs to know their critical numbers, such as blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol levels, body mass index, and waist circumference. They say knowledge is power. In this case, being aware of risk factors helps motivate people to make a difference.

What do you think is the No. 1 cause of the heart disease epidemic?

I’m happy to say that there is not an escalating epidemic in the United States. We have reduced cardiovascular mortality about 50 percent over the last few decades. However, internationally the numbers are climbing as people and low and middle income countries adopt a more sedentary lifestyle with less healthy foods.