Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Fourteen Ways to Prevent Cancer

Posted by Dr. Gray on Friday, July 25, 2008

It’s estimated that a startling one-third of all US women will be stricken with some form of cancer during their lifetime. In 1997, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) released dietary recommendations intended to reduce global cancer incidence and mortality. The current study condensed the 14 original recommendations into nine that the authors deemed particularly relevant to Western populations, then evaluated their impact on a cohort of 29,564 women (55-69 years old at baseline) with regards to cancer incidence, cancer mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and total mortality.

No study participant had a prior history of cancer or heart disease in 1986, when the study began. At follow-up in 1998, women who had followed zero to one of the AICR recommendations were 1.35 times more likely to have cancer than women who implemented six to nine of the recommendations. CVD mortality risk did not appear to be correlated with the number of AICR recommendations followed.

The 14 AIR recommendations are summarized as follows:

  1. Food supply/eating habits: Consume a plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables; minimize starchy foods.
  2. Body weight: Avoid being underweight or overweight; limit adult weight gain.
  3. Physical activity: Perform moderate daily exercise; exercise vigorously at least one hour per week.
  4. Vegetable and fruit intake: Eat five or more servings of fruits/vegetables per day (excluding pulses and starchy vegetables).
  5. Consumption of other plant foods: Eat seven or more daily portions of a variety of cereals, roots, tubers, plantains, etc.; minimize intake of processed foods and refined sugars.
  6. Alcohol consumption: Alcohol intake is discouraged; if at all, limit to less than one drink per day.
  7. Meat consumption: If consumed at all, limit to 3 ounces daily.
  8. Total fats and oils: Limit consumption of fatty foods; use moderate amounts of appropriate vegetable oils when necessary.
  9. Salt and salting: Limit consumption of salted foods and use of cooking/table salt; use herbs and spices as alternate seasoning options.
  10. Food storage: Do not eat food subject to contamination due to long storage at ambient temperatures.
  11. Food preservation methods: Preserve perishable food appropriately via refrigeration, freezing, etc.
  12. Additives and residues: Minimize levels of additives, contaminants and other residues in food sources.
  13. Food preparation: Consume grilled or broiled meat and fish occasionally, avoiding burning of meat juices and charring.
  14. Dietary supplements: Supplementation is probably unnecessary if appropriate dietary strategies are followed.

The AICR also recommends that individuals avoid smoking or chewing tobacco, for various health reasons.

Conclusions: “Adherence to the AICR recommendations, independently and in conjunction with not smoking, is likely to have a substantial public health impact on reducing cancer incidence and, to a lesser degree, cancer mortality at the population level.” The authors add that their findings support public policy initiatives regarding proper diet, weight control and physical activity, to help reduce the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Cerhan JR, Potter JD, Gilmore JME, et al. Adherence to the AICR cancer prevention recommendations and subsequent morbidity and mortality in the Iowa Women’s Health Study cohort. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention July 2004;13(7):1114-20. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org


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