Applying the precautionary principle to nutrition and cancer

Applying the precautionary principle to nutrition and cancer

Joseph F Gonzales 1Neal D BarnardDavid J A JenkinsAmy J LanouBrenda DavisGordon SaxeSusan Levin


Primary objective: Research has identified certain foods and dietary patterns that are associated with reduced cancer risk and improved survival after cancer diagnosis. This research has formed the basis for dietary guidance issued by cancer organizations. Unfortunately, gaps within nutrition research have made it difficult to make recommendations in some areas. This review specifies suggested dietary guidance in which evidence of a dietary influence on cancer risk is substantial, even if not conclusive. Evidence summaries within the review are based on the 2007 report of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. This review also describes advantages and disadvantages of following the suggested dietary guidance and includes putative mechanisms involved in cancer progression.

Main outcomes and results: Suggested dietary guidance where evidence is sufficiently compelling include (1) limiting or avoiding dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer; (2) limiting or avoiding alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast; (3) avoiding red and processed meat to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum; (4) avoiding grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas; (5) consumption of soy products during adolescence to reduce the risk of breast cancer in adulthood and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer; and (6) emphasizing fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer.

Conclusion: By adopting the precautionary principle for nutrition research, this review aims to serve as a useful tool for practitioners and patients.

Keywords: alcohol; cancer; dairy; diet; meat; milk; risk; soy.


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