6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
For cancer prevention, AICR recommends not to drink alcohol. However, our expert report recognizes that modest amounts of alcohol may have a protective effect on coronary heart disease. If you do drink alcohol, limit your consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
The evidence that all types of alcoholic drinks increase the risk of a number of cancers is now stronger than it was in the mid-1990s. There is convincing evidence that alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and breast, as well as colorectal cancer in men.
Alcoholic drinks also probably increase the risk of colorectal cancer in women as well as liver cancer.
Scientists are still researching how alcohol causes cancer. One theory is that alcohol can directly damage our DNA, increasing our risk of cancer. Research shows that alcohol is particularly harmful when combined with smoking.
7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
Consuming too much salt can be harmful to our health, increasing our risk of stomach cancer as well as high blood pressure.
Our daily intake of salt should be less than 2,400 milligrams. We actually need much less than this. Most people in the United States currently consume more than 2,400 mg, but there are simple ways to cut down on our intake.
The expert panel found that salt and salt-preserved foods probably increase the chance of developing stomach cancer. Studies have shown that high salt intake can damage the lining of the stomach. This is one way in which it might increase the risk of stomach cancer.
Most of the salt in our diets comes from processed foods. We are not always aware that these foods are high in salt because they may not taste “salty,” so make sure to read the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label. Watch out for breakfast cereals, bread, frozen meals, pizza and chips. Also, check the amount of sodium in canned products, such as soups and sauces, and avoid processed meats. Even sweet foods like cookies can contain high levels of salt.
8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer.
To reduce your risk of cancer, choose a balanced diet with a variety of foods rather than taking supplements.
The expert report found strong evidence that high-dose supplements of some nutrients can affect the risk of different cancers. The panel judged that in general, the best source of nourishment is food and drink, not dietary supplements. Nutrient-rich whole foods contain substances that are necessary for good health–like fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. (The plant-based foods are the source of many cancer-fighting compounds. Be sure to fill your plate two-thirds (or more) with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, and one-third (or less) of animal protein.)
Some studies have shown that supplements can upset the balance of nutrients in the body. More research needs to be done, but this is one way that they might affect our risk of cancer.
There are some situations when supplements are recommended. These are the most common situations when taking a supplement can be beneficial:
- All women of childbearing age intending to conceive a child should take a folic acid supplement before conception and up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.
- Pregnant women and nursing mothers should also take a vitamin D supplement and possibly an iron supplement if their iron levels are low.
- Children between six months and five years could benefit from taking drops containing vitamins A, C and D, although children with a good appetite who eat a wide variety of foods may not need them.
- Frail older people who have low calorie needs may benefit from a low-dose, balanced multi-vitamin.
- Older people should consider taking a vitamin D supplement, as should: people who rarely go outdoors, people who cover up all their skin when outdoors, those who don’t eat meat or oily fish.
If you want more advice on any of these situations, it’s best to contact your doctor or a registered dietitian.
9. It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods.
Evidence shows that breastfeeding can help protect mothers from breast cancer. It also protects babies from excess weight gain that can lead to their being overweight in adult life. And overweight adults have higher cancer risk.
According to the expert report, the evidence that breastfeeding protects mothers against breast cancer is convincing. Having been breastfed probably protects children against overweight and obesity. Overweight and obese children tend to remain overweight in adult life.
Breastfeeding lowers the levels of some cancer-related hormones in the mother’s body, reducing the risk of breast cancer. At the end of breastfeeding, the body gets rid of any cells in the breast that may have DNA damage. This reduces the risk of breast cancer developing in the future.
Research shows that babies who are breastfed are less likely to consume too many calories and too much protein than babies who are fed infant formula. This means that they are less likely to become overweight or obese as they grow up.
If you’re planning to breastfeed your baby, your doctor or certified lactation consultant will be able to provide more information and support.
10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.
Anyone who has received a diagnosis of cancer should receive specialized nutritional advice from an appropriately trained professional. Once treatment has been completed, if you are able to do so (and unless otherwise advised), aim to follow our cancer prevention recommendations for diet, physical activity and healthy weight maintenance.
Cancer survivors are people who are living with a diagnosis of cancer, including those who have recovered from the disease.
There is growing evidence that physical activity and other measures that help us to maintain a healthy weight, such as a balanced diet, may help to prevent cancer recurrence, particularly for breast cancer. However, the evidence is not yet clear enough to be able to make any specific recommendations for cancer survivors in general, or for those who are survivors of any specific form of cancer.
These recommendations can also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.