Essay: How Can a Bad Diet Lead to Cancer?

The American Cancer Society reports that obesity is an important risk factor leading to cancer. Given this risk factor, it is easy to see how the obesity epidemic in this country is also contributing to the increase in the number of cases of cancer in this country. In 2005, the Center for Disease Control said “poor diet and physical inactivity actually caused closer to 365,000 deaths.” Not all of these deaths were cancer related, but given the fact that cancer is one of the top three killers in the United States it is not much of a stretch to believe that obesity and bad diets could lead to these cancerous deaths.

There is very little, if any, research about how a bad diet can lead to cancer. Instead, researchers make inferences based on statistics and probabilities. What has happened though is that there is some anecdotal evidence that a good diet can cure people of cancer.

A “cure cancer” diet approaches food from a “what is allowed to be eaten,” approach leaving all other food and ingredients at the grocery store. For example, one version of a “cure cancer” diet commands that dieters drink only grape juice (not grape juice cocktail) and natural water (though “natural water” is not clearly defined). Diets such as this are not intended to be used in the long term diet, but rather as detox diet, to rid the body of toxins that are feeding the cancer. No other food should be allowed into the system. In “cure cancer” diets what you do not eat is of equal importance to what you do eat.

But not all “cure cancer” diets are the same. Some of them forbid the eating of any fruit. For others, fruit is the main source of calories. There is some science behind these choices and cancer patients wishing to pursue diet changes as an alternative therapy should thoroughly understand what they are doing to their bodies and their cancer prior to commencing any “cure cancer” diet.

In the no fruit diet, the goal is to balance the blood pH and the acidity in fruit makes that nearly impossible. In the mostly fruit diet, the goal is to kill cancer cells. Fruit naturally has many cancer fighting nutrients that are delivered to the cancer cells via the natural sugar found in fruit.

Cancertutor.com explains the important things to remember about what a cancer diet tries to do with restricting and allowing various foods. Cancer diets aim to avoid foods that feed the cancer cells, like those with refined grains and sugars. They also endeavor to avoid foods that have been shown in laboratory studies to cause cancer, such as trans fatty acids, aspartame, and MSG. Some other popular foods that cancer diets eschew are meat, caffeine, and alcohol because they interfere with the body’s ability to repair itself and allow alternative cancer treatments to work.

In the end, it is still up in the air how much of an effect a bad diet can have on a person’s probability of getting cancer. However, it is clear that there are some diets that can help a person recover from cancer, giving hope that one day we may have a solidly research cancer prevention diet.