Group offers six recommendations for eating and cancer prevention

Researchers say eating soy, such as edamame, as a teen can help prevent breast cancer later.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

People don’t have time to wait for conclusive information about nutrition and cancer, says an advocacy group that has issued six dietary recommendations to help prevent cancer.

The guidance to emphasize fruits and vegetables hardly will raise an eyebrow, when even the federal government’s My Plate graphic recommendation is half produce. But the paper, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, also recommends little or no dairy, red or processed meat, and avoiding meat that’s fried, grilled or broiled.

The evidence is “sufficiently compelling” if not conclusive in six areas, say the authors from several institutions, including the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which advocates for vegetarian or vegan diets and opposes animal experiments.


Evidence for the guidelines, the researchers wrote, comes from the 2007 report of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research and other sources.

The report suggests that limiting or avoiding dairy products may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. It cites studies showing an association between diets high in calcium – from dairy and other sources – and the disease.

The researchers note that reducing dairy also may reduce calcium intake, which is important for bone health and for prevention of colorectal cancer. They suggest getting calcium from green leafy vegetables and other foods.

The second recommendation is to limit or avoid alcohol, which may reduce risk of several cancers including of the mouth, esophagus, colon and rectum. The researchers do note that a drink a day for women and two for men are associated with reduced risk of heart and Alzheimer’s disease.

The third guideline is that avoiding red and processed meat may reduce colon and rectal cancer risk. Citing the cancer research fund report, the authors said “findings were consistent and dose related, with every 120 grams of red meat consumed on a daily basis increasing risk by an estimated 28%.”

A disadvantage of avoiding red meat, the researchers note, is that it is a concentrated source of protein, iron and zinc.

A request to the Cattlemen’s Assn. and the Dairy Council for comment was not immediately answered Tuesday.

The fourth guideline is that avoiding grilled, fried or broiled meat and fish – high-temperature cooking methods -- may reduce the risk of several cancers, including colon, breast, pancreas and prostate.

The fifth guideline said that eating soy products during adolescence may reduce the risk of breast cancer in adulthood, and soy may reduce the risk of recurrence for women who have been treated for breast cancer. The researchers suggest choosing soy foods – edamame or tofu, for instance – over pills and powders.

Finally, the report advocates eating lots of fruits and vegetables for their fiber and phytochemicals to reduce the risk of several cancers. Of course, nutritionists and public health officials recommend eating lots of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis for many reasons.

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