An adult human is made up of up to 100 trillion cells. Without our noticing it, they permanently repair and renew themselves. This happens through division, in which the genetic material is doubled and transferred to daughter cells. Of course, mistakes can happen here, but repair enzymes watch over DNA defects and repair them. In addition, the immune system detects and eliminates damaged cells. Or the cells concerned destroy themselves.
But sometimes the body’s own protective mechanisms fail or external influences really fuel DNA damage – and a malignant tumor develops. Experts estimate that around 40 percent of all cancers in Germany would be preventable if people avoided the known triggers: for example, negative environmental influences, infections with cancer-causing viruses, and an unhealthy lifestyle. The latter also includes nutrition – here you can find out what needs to be considered in order to prevent cancer.
Alcohol? No thank you
Most people will not like to hear it, but our cells do not like alcohol at all: It is mainly absorbed through the mucous membranes of the small intestine and reaches every cell in the body via the blood – which explains why alcohol can in principle damage all organs. It also promotes cancer, primarily of the mouth, larynx, throat, and esophagus, as they come into direct contact with it. In addition, alcohol potentiates the negative effects of smoking, as it makes the mucous membranes more permeable to the toxic substances from tobacco smoke. Cancer has an easy time of it.
The effects on the liver are probably better known: Too much makes the organ fat, leads to inflammation, hardening of the liver ( cirrhosis of the liver ), and ultimately to liver cancer. The risk of developing cancer can largely be attributed to the effects of acetaldehyde. This intermediate product is created when the liver detoxifies alcohol – but it is very reactive and attacks the DNA. The same applies to free radicals, which are also produced when alcohol is broken down. Last but not least, alcohol disrupts the estrogen level and thus contributes to the growth of hormone-dependent tumors, such as breast cancer.
That is why the European Code Against Cancer recommends: “Reduce your alcohol consumption. Not using alcohol at all is even better for reducing your risk of cancer. ”Those who do not want to stop consuming alcohol should drink in moderation. For women, this would be a maximum of 10 grams of alcohol and for men 20 grams per day. An amount of 10 grams of alcohol corresponds to a glass of beer (250 milliliters), a glass of wine (100 milliliters), or a long drink (200 milliliters with 4 centiliters of vodka). However, this information should in no way be understood as an invitation to drink daily. You shouldn’t touch alcohol for at least two to three days a week.
Alcohol increases the risk of some types of tumors because it causes hormonal changes and acetaldehyde and free radicals are formed when it is broken down. In order to prevent cancer, it is important to use alcohol in moderation or, even better, to avoid it completely.
Make plant food a friend
Experts attribute around every fifth cancer disease to chronic inflammation – because when inflammations swell in the body, more free radicals have released that attack the genetic makeup. Fortunately, our cells are not at the mercy of this, because so-called antioxidants can neutralize these aggressive molecules and thus stop what is happening.
These power substances include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and secondary plant substances such as beta-carotene. A lot of vitamin C is not only found in citrus fruits, but also in broccoli, fennel, paprika, and black currants. However, the radical scavenger does not tolerate great heat. You should therefore only steam the vegetables briefly or nibble them raw.
Great sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, kernels, nuts, and seeds. Speaking of nuts: Brazil nuts in particular are rich in selenium. The trace element is also found in vegetables, fish, seafood, and milk, while the orange plant pigment beta-carotene is found in apricots, carrots, and pumpkins. Lamb’s lettuce, kale, and spinach are also excellent suppliers – even if they are deep green. With them, the high chlorophyll content overlays the bright orange of the beta-carotene.
Inflammation can pave the way for cancer as it releases more free radicals in the body. But vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene can neutralize them. These antioxidants are often found in fruits, vegetables and oilseeds.
More fiber, please!
You can easily achieve the recommended amount of 30 grams with whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and mushrooms fiber per day. As is well known, they keep us full for a long time, keep the blood sugar level in balance and prevent obesity. In addition, the plant fibers and bulking agents are good for the intestinal mucous membrane cells: When they arrive in the large intestine, they are broken down by bacteria into short-chain fatty acids. These metabolic products in turn use the intestinal mucous membrane cells as a source of energy.
In addition, the fiber makes the stool softer and more voluminous encourages bowel movement, and thus accelerates the passage through the digestive tract. In doing so, they bind toxins like a sponge – and the intestinal mucous membrane cells do not come into contact with them for as long. In this way, fiber can help prevent colon cancer. Malignant growths of the colon and rectum are now the second most common cancer for men and women.
On the other hand, frequent consumption of red meat promotes colon cancer: rosy meat such as lamb, beef, and pork is rich in heme iron – too much of it can damage the genetic material and promote cell division. For this reason, it is advisable not to eat more than 300 grams of red meat per week. The healthier alternatives are poultry and fish.
Dietary fiber from whole grain products, legumes, vegetables, and mushrooms prevent obesity and clean the digestive tract like a sponge from the inside. This can prevent cancer in the intestines.
Store and prepare food correctly
Sometimes an unpleasant surprise lurks in the bread box or jam jar: toast or spreads are covered in green fur. In this case, the candidate belongs in the trash. It is not enough just to scrape or cut away the mold, because the fungi often penetrate the entire food – and some species even form carcinogenic aflatoxins. The poisoning agents also preferentially attack food from warm, humid countries such as peanuts, grain, spices, corn, pistachios, and dried fruits.
To reduce the risk of mold toxins, it is advisable to always store endangered items in a dry and cool place. Also, do not sprinkle canned spices directly over steaming pots, but put them in a spoon beforehand so that they do not get damp. In addition, do not eat nuts that are discolored or give off an unpleasant odor. This also applies to all other foods that smell musty.
Carcinogenic substances such as acrylamide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) are sometimes produced during baking, roasting, deep-frying, and grilling. Acrylamide appears when starchy foods such as bread, chips, or french fries are browned too much. PAHs develop when fat, meat juice, or marinade drip into the embers during grilling and burn. And the darker fish, steak, and sausages that are sizzling, the more HAA is created. For this reason, cook the food gently and at low temperatures. Also, dab the marinade well beforehand and use a grill tray to avoid PAHs.
Some substances are considered carcinogenic, including aflatoxins from moldy foods, acrylamide from heavily browned and starchy foods, PAHs from grilled foods, and HAA from meat and fish that are seared too hot.
Lose excess weight
Many of us want to prevent cancer by quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, and eating healthily. When most people think of being overweight, they primarily think of the increased risk of a heart attack – but those who carry too much weight also increase the risk of developing cancer.
One of the reasons for this is the visceral fat that envelops the internal organs in the abdomen. It forms inflammatory messenger substances and growth-promoting hormones, which are suspected of increasing the risk of degeneration. On the other hand, the pancreas of overweight people releases large amounts of insulin. The hormone not only regulates blood sugar levels but also increases IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) levels. This growth factor is important for cell division, but also allows tumor cells to thrive better.
So do something good for yourself and watch your body weight. To lose weight healthily, a combination of diet, behavior change, and regular exercise is recommended. On the other hand, one-sided or crash diets do absolutely nothing, on the contrary: the yo-yo effect only makes people who want to lose weight even fatter.
Cancer is also favored by being overweight. This is particularly about visceral fat, which releases inflammatory messenger substances and growth-promoting hormones. In addition, high insulin concentrations increase the growth factor IGF-1.
Knowledge to take away
Cells can degenerate if their genetic material is damaged. Such defects can occur accidentally during cell division, but they are also fueled by various substances, including alcoholic beverages, aflatoxins, acrylamide, heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and cigarette smoke. If the body’s own protective mechanisms fail, a malignant tumor can develop.
However, you can prevent cancer by avoiding known triggers. Experts recommend using alcohol in moderation or, best of all, completely avoiding it. Under no circumstances should you eat moldy food, as carcinogenic aflatoxins can lurk here. Food from warm and humid countries such as peanuts, spices, and grains are, particularly at risk. To avoid acrylamide, it is advisable not to roast starchy foods too dark. The same goes for meat and fish. This is about the HAA. Exposure to PAHs can be minimized if you use grill trays.
Eating a healthy diet for the cells can also help prevent cancer. This is achieved with antioxidants that intercept free radicals. These power substances include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene, which are often found in fruits, vegetables, and oilseeds. Fiber from whole grain products, legumes, vegetables, and mushrooms are doubly effective for the anti-cancer diet: like a sponge, they clean the intestines from the inside and prevent obesity. The latter in turn increases the risk of developing cancer. This is due in particular to the metabolically active belly fat.