Diet and cancer

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Diet and Cancer

Diet and cancer (/daɪət ænd ˈkænsər/) refers to the significant impact that dietary habits have on cancer risk and progression. The term encompasses a broad range of nutritional factors, including specific foods, food groups, and dietary patterns, which can either increase or decrease the likelihood of developing various types of cancer.


The term "diet" originates from the Greek word "diaita," which means "way of life," while "cancer" comes from the Latin "cancer," meaning "crab" or "creeping ulcer." The association between diet and cancer has been recognized since the time of the ancient Greeks, but it was not until the 20th century that scientific research began to elucidate the specific dietary factors that contribute to cancer risk.

Related Terms

  • Oncology: The branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
  • Nutrition: The science that interprets the nutrients and other substances in food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health, and disease of an organism.
  • Carcinogen: A substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.
  • Antioxidant: A substance that inhibits oxidation, especially one used to counteract the deterioration of stored food products or remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism.

Diet and Cancer Risk

Research has shown that certain dietary factors can significantly influence cancer risk. For example, diets high in fruits and vegetables have been associated with a reduced risk of many types of cancer, while diets high in red and processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Other dietary factors that have been implicated in cancer risk include alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages, and certain types of fats.

Diet and Cancer Progression

In addition to influencing cancer risk, diet can also affect cancer progression. For instance, certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to inhibit tumor growth and enhance the effectiveness of cancer treatments. Conversely, diets high in sugar and certain types of fat can promote tumor growth and resistance to treatment.

Prevention and Management

Given the significant impact of diet on cancer risk and progression, dietary modification is a key component of cancer prevention and management. This includes adopting a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, while limiting intake of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and alcohol.

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