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A Cancer Prevention Diet

Food Plate iconLast week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture replaced its traditional food pyramid with a new "plate icon" to help direct consumers on how to eat a healthy, balanced meal.  It turns out that an emphasis on fruits and vegetables can also be helpful in preventing cancer.

In one segment of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center series, C-Answers, we review some of the evidence on foods that thwart cancer.  Watch the video and read the script to improve your knowledge of a healthy diet and reduce your risk for cancer:

C-Answers: Diet, Nutrition and Cancer
Most of our moms weren't prostate cancer specialists, but it turns out they sure knew what they were talking about when they told us to "eat our vegetables."

That was "then" and this is NOW... and NOW science is backing up mom's advice.

I'm Bill Nelson, the director of the Kimmel Cancer Center here at Johns Hopkins. I'm an oncologist who specializes in prostate cancer.

Research has shown us that fruits and vegetables have nutrients that help decrease cancer risk.

Tomatoes are a perfect example. In tomatoes we find lycopene. It's what gives tomatoes their rich, red color. Men who have high levels of lycopene show low levels of prostate cancer.

In a study of prostate cancer patients who ate foods with tomato based sauces over a three-week span before surgery to remove their prostate gland, the disease had become less severe.

If tomatoes aren't on your favorite food list, leafy, green vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage have also been linked in lowering prostate cancer risk.

On the flip side... how and what you eat could increase your chances of prostate cancer...

And remember, most of us consume a pound and a half to two pounds of food each day -- that introduces a very complicated mixture of chemicals... and that's before you cook it.

Studies have shown that eating a lot of red meat raises the odds of prostate cancer.

AND the WAY you cook it is important too.

Grilling at high temperatures or charcoal broiling burns the meat.  It's those charred bits that contain a carcinogen called PhIP... spelled P-H-I-P.

Scientists are now studying ways to measure levels of PhIP in the body, so that doctors can better predict your prostate cancer risk.

That old saying, "You are what you eat" is turning out to be a key ingredient to controlling cancer.

"Mom" had it right, all along!!

9 thoughts on “A Cancer Prevention Diet”

  1. Interesting article! I will show this to my husband and convince him to be more concern about his health.

  2. Karen (Peacock) Noyes

    Adding fruits and vegetables is an important cancer fighting strategy. However, many states allow/advocate the use of human waste, raw and processed, on agricultural lands. Human waste potentially contains human diseases. I seem to recall that Mad Cow disease was caused at least in part to feeding the animals components of their own species. What then will happen to people when plants wick up remains of human cells/diseases. The fruits and vegetables have the potential to become contaminated and unhealthy in my humble opinion.

    Also, Monsanto is trying to get government officials to approve them using components of Agent Orange in their crops/seeds, like corn. Agent Orange is well known for causing multiple types of health problems.

    Please research and spread the word on this.

    Thank you!

    Karen Noyes

    1. Dear Karen,
      I checked with my colleagues in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health -- raw, untreated human sewage is not allowed for use in agriculture. On the topic of biosolids, there are different classes of biosolids (class A and class B), which refers to the level of treatment. There may be some risk of exposure to pathogens from class B biosolids, which have not been fully studied, and there are restrictions on crop usage for these types of biosolids. Some pollutants like metals, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, which are removed from water treatment, can become trapped in the biosolids.
      The CDC has more information at:

      Dr. Thomas Burke at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health chaired an IOM report on the issue:

      And the EPA provides an FAQ at:

  3. First thing to change is always the diet. The diet is the main building block of any fitness or health related changes. Everything you eat has consequences to your health, fitness level and look. Before beginning with a diet change try to take a look back on your diet and figure out what you are eating throughout the day. Is it processed? Is it mainly sugar? How much protein are you eating? How many vegetables?

  4. One of the most popular type of diet plans is the Jenny Craig plan. Most people on this type of weight loss plan are trying to lose only a small amount of weight. People who are trying to lose a large amount of weigh and try the plan are usually disappointed, because even over time, the plan is simply not successful.

  5. Do these diet choices also apply to other cancer and if so which in particular? Does including these foods increase remission time following a radicle prostatectomy(sp?)? Are there currently any studies underway involving diet choices made by cancer survivors showing results leading to real conclusions???

    1. Dear Ellen,
      These are very good questions, and we're working on getting answers. We hope to post them soon. On the topic of prostate cancer, another C-Answers segment discusses prostate cancer immunology therapy, which might be of interest to you as well:
      Thanks for reading Cancer Matters!

    2. Dear Ellen,
      Answers from Dr. Bill Nelson follow:
      (1) Do these diet choices also apply to other cancer and if so which in particular?
      Charred meat carcinogens have been implicated in the development of several human cancers, particularly cancers of the prostate, breast, and colon.

      (2) Does including these foods increase remission time following a radicle prostatectomy(sp?)? …[the correct spelling in radical prostatectomy]…
      A diet that is (i) rich in fruits and vegetables and (ii) does not increase weight may reduce the risk/timing of recurrence after radical prostatectomy. Such a diet also reduces cardiovascular disease risks.

      (3) Are there currently any studies underway involving diet choices made by cancer survivors showing results leading to real conclusions???
      There are no major intervention studies on a large scale per se…rather, most insights have come from epidemiologic-type analyses.

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