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Johnson County

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Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

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Monday - Friday,
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(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

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Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

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Eating for Cancer Prevention

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Few things in life are scarier than coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. and is responsible for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths. Financially, cancer costs the U.S. $263.8 billion dollars in medical costs and lost productivity every year.

But despite these wretched numbers, the scariest fact of all is the sense of helplessness surrounding this disease. If the genetic conditions are right, cancer seems like it has the power to strike anyone at any time, regardless of their constitution. I know this personally. All of my aunts and uncles on my mother’s side have dealt with a cancer diagnosis. Two have died from the disease. Even my own mother and sister were diagnosed with cancer when they were in their 30’s. Thankfully, both are in remission, but continue to monitor their health for relapses.  

But is it completely hopeless? I recently once heard a dietitian say that genetically-influenced diseases, like cancer, are similar to loaded guns, but it’s actually our environment and lifestyle habits that pull the trigger. Science and research backs up this wisdom and even claims that one-third of all cancer deaths are preventable and can be attributed to a lack of physical activity and poor diet.

The following are risk factors that increase one’s odds for developing cancer:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Unhealthy diet high in processed foods
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Infections (hepatitis, HPV)
  • Environmental pollution (air, water, and soil)
  • Occupational Carcinogens (Asbestos)
  • Radiation (UV light, Radon gas)

The following are steps you can take to reduce your cancer risk:

  • Maintain a healthy weight throughout your life
  • Reduce intake of saturated fat, processed meat and red meat
    • Use vegetable oils when cooking (canola, corn, or olive oil) instead of solid fats (butter, or lard)
    • Purchase fat-free or low-fat milk instead of whole milk
    • Trim fat and skin from meat
    • Decrease consumption of fried foods
    • Eat smaller portions
    • Pay attention to fat content on food labels
    • Substitute low-fat products in recipes
    • Consume meat that has lower levels of saturated fat, such as seafood
    • Use meat as a side dish, in small portions
    • Consume lean meats like fish and skinless poultry
    • Consume alternative protein sources such as beans and legumes
  • Limit intake of salt-cured and charred foods
    • Cover grill with aluminum foil to protect the food from smoke and fire
    • Cook meat until done, but do not char it
    • Remove charred portions before eating
    • Precook foods in the microwave to decrease grilling time
  • Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Consume alcoholic beverages in moderation
    • Instead of alcohol, try non-alcoholic wine, beer, mineral or tonic water, cider, grape juice, or fruit juice
    • Always provide non-alcoholic beverages and nutrient-dense foods at social gatherings
    • Drink alcohol in moderation — no more than two drinks per day for men, and no more than 1 drink per day for women

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