It is no news that cancer is the second leading causes of death in the world. In 2015, it accounted for about 8.8 million deaths. Cancer arises when normal cells are transformed into tumors cells in a multi-staged process that progresses from pre-cancerous lesion to malignant tumor. The five common types of cancer are lung, stomach, colorectal, liver and breast.
Risk factors for cancer includes; dietary factors, obesity/overweight, tobacco use, alcohol use, physical inactivity, and environmental (exposure to radiation). All these factors are modifiable and can therefore reduce the burden of cancer.
ROLES OF NUTRIENTS IN CANCER.
Carbohydrate: Although studies have not shown consensus on the role of carbohydrate in cancer, however, some studies have suggested that high intake of dietary fibre (complex carbohydrate) can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. The proposed mechanism of action is that dietary fibre works by facilitating the transition of food through the large intestine by fermentation the food to short chain fatty acid which may induce apoptosis, promotes cell differentiation and inhibits secondary bile acid production (Key & Spencer, 2007). Research has also suggested that high sucrose and lactose intake may increase the risk for the development of colorectal and ovarian cancer respectively.
Fat: Increased dietary fat may lead to overweight/obesity which is a risk factor for the development of colorectal cancer and breast cancer. Overweight /obesity increases endogenous estrogen level in postmenopausal women and this may explain the high risk of postmenopausal breast and endometrial cancer for women. Furthermore, hyperinsulinemia associated with obesity/overweight may also increases the risk for colon cancer (Key et al., 2004).
Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetable are high in nutrients that have been suggested to protect against cancer development. They are good sources of vitamins, fibre, and antioxidants. Studies have shown that high intake of antioxidant rich food is inversely related to cancer risk. Antioxidants helps reverse the damage caused by free radicals to normal cells. They also induce cell apoptosis in cancer cells preventing angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels) and metastasis (spread of cancer cells). This proposed mechanism of action has made suggestion for antioxidants to be used as adjuvants in cancer therapy.
Tips for cancer prevention
- Tobacco control
- Healthy diet which is to include a lots of fruits and vegetables
- Preventing harmful alcohol usage
- Reduced exposure to radiation
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