Information > Dietary and Other Factors

| Food, Nutrition and Cancer | Tobacco and Cancer | Causes of Cancer |

Food, Nutrition and Cancer


  In 960 AD, Young-He-Yan thought that poor nutrition was a cause of the condition we would now know as cancer of the esophagus.

  In 1396 AD Hakim Gorgani observed that the main cause of esophageal cancer in the Turkman Sahara of North eastern Iran (where the incidence rate of this disease is the highest in the world) is malnutrition and poor food habits.

  In 1914, Peyton Raus observed that the restriction of food comsunption delayed the development of tumor metastases in mice.

  In the 1920s and 1930s, the accumulation of vital statistics by insurance companies showed an association between obesity and mortality from cancer in different organs.

  In the 1930s, exploration of the role of diet in human cancers began and even at that stage, evidence emerged that high intake of plant foods reduces the risk of cancer.

  In the 1940s, the protective effects of under-feeding on tumor formation in experimental animals were recognized.

  In the 1980s, the possible role of diet and nutrition in the etiology of several cancer sites in humans were suggested.

Tobacco and Cancer

  Tobacco is the cause of about half of all male cancer deaths in middle age and one-third in old age in North America.

  Tobacco is also the cause of one-third of all deaths among women in middle age in North America.

  Lung cancer due to tobacco kills more women in North America each year than breast cancer.

  Although the United States has only 5% of the world's female population, it contributed 50% of the world's female mortality due to smoking.

  The relative risk of chewing tobacco in the development of oral cancer is 25 and the attributable risk is 90%

Smoking kills three million people each year

    Developing Countries   Developed Countries 
Men 24% 40%
Women 7% 17%

Causes of Cancer

Finding the cause of cancer is extremely difficult, because often cancer develops very slowly over many years. It may be 20-30 years after a number of people are exposed to a cancer-causing agent (carcinogen) before there is a significant increase in cancer among them.

  Carcinogens in natural foodstuffs: There are some food which are powerful direct-acting carcinogens such as BRACKEN FERN. This vegetable has been related to cancer in humans.

  Carcinogens produced by cooking: BENZO (a) PYRENE and other POLYCYCLIC HYDROCARBONS can be generated by pyrolysis when meat and fish are broiled or smoked or when any food is fried in fat that is used repeatedly.

  Carcinogens produced in stored foods by microorganisms: Carcinogens could be produced in stored foods by the action of microorganisms. AFLATOXIN, a product of the fungus ASPERGILLUS FLAVUS that commonly contaminates peanuts and other staple carbohydrate foods stored in hot and humid climates, is a major factor in the development of liver cancer in certain tropical countries.

  Formation of carcinogens in the body: The formation of N-nitroso compound, the most powerful carcinogens in the body is an example of the formation of carcinogens in the body.

  Transport, activation, or deactivation of carcinogens:
Fiber alters the concentration, or duration of contact of carcinogens with feces.
Alcohol alters the transport of carcinogens in stem cells.

  Overnutrition: The role of overnutrition is very important in the etiology of cancer, even though the relevant mechanism remains obscure.
Here are different tables on nutritional factors that affect the risk of developing one or many cancers.

      Bioactive compounds
      Coffee, tea, and drinks
      Cured and smoked foods
      Energy and related factors
      Food additives
      Meat, poultry, fish and eggs
      Methods of cooking foods
      Microbial contamination
      Milk and diary products
      Salt, salting and refrigeration
      Vegetables and fruits