French researcher Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault recently addressed how diet and environmental factors can affect your cancer risk. She explained that the risk of certain cancers can increase based on dietary changes, stating “When Japanese people emigrate to Hawaii and start eating processed products, their cancer risk increases by a third.” Changing from a diet comprised of mostly unprocessed foods to one that contains an abundance of processed goods increases these individuals’ risk of cancer, though this is without considering genetic and behavioral factors.
Boutron-Ruault also explained that including raw foods like unrefined fiber and whole-grain cereals can work to decrease this risk by 30 to 35 percent, most notably for cancers affecting the digestive system. These cancers include colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and stomach cancer, which have also been linked to a vitamin D deficiency. Cancers in the intestines and stomach have also shown a relationship to foods like processed deli meats, cold cuts, and red meat, according to reports from the World Health Organization. It is recommended that these meats are considered treats and eaten in smaller quantities, preferably with fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants to help reduce the detrimental effects.
While less is known about environmental factors such as pesticides, Boutron-Ruault has explained that these chemicals do come with a risk. She states, “[…] we don’t have any real estimation, apart from people directly exposed to pesticides or toxic substances, such as farmers. However, we can affirm that these products represent a risk factor, which is difficult to measure.” She warns against taking preventative measures that are too extreme, like cutting all fruits and vegetables out of your diet and eliminating a natural source of essential vitamins—she instead recommends you opt for seasonal, local produce of good quality. This lowers the risk that they have been treated excessively with potentially harmful pesticides.
While diet has been known to influence health on a number of levels, it also has the potential to increase your risk of developing some cancers. Eating mostly unprocessed foods and picking seasonal, local produce whenever possible may help to lower your risk of cancers such as pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, and stomach cancer.
Related: 6 ways to lower your risk of colon cancer