13 Foods That May Lower Your Risk of Cancer
Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a plant
compound found in cruciferous vegetables that may have potent anticancer
properties. One test-tube study showed that
sulforaphane reduced the size and number of breast cancer cells by up to 75%.
Similarly, an animal study found that
treating mice with sulforaphane helped kill off prostate cancer cells and
reduced tumor volume by more than 50%.
Some studies have also found that a
higher intake of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli may be linked to a lower
risk of colorectal cancer.
One analysis of 35 studies showed that
eating more cruciferous vegetables was associated with a lower risk of
colorectal and colon cancer.
Including broccoli with a few meals per
week may come with some cancer-fighting benefits.
However, keep in mind that the
available research hasn’t looked directly at how broccoli may affect cancer in
Instead, it has been limited to
test-tube, animal and observational studies that either investigated the
effects of cruciferous vegetables or the effects of a specific compound in
broccoli. Thus, more studies are needed.
Several studies have found that eating more carrots is
linked to a decreased risk of certain types of cancer. For example, an analysis looked at the results of five
studies and concluded that eating carrots may reduce the risk of stomach cancer
by up to 26%.
Another study found that a higher intake of carrots was
associated with 18% lower odds of developing prostate cancer.
One study analyzed the diets of 1,266 participants with and
without lung cancer. It found that current smokers who did not eat carrots were
three times as likely to develop lung cancer, compared to those who ate carrots
more than once per week.
Try incorporating carrots into your diet as a healthy snack
or delicious side dish just a few times per week to increase your intake and
potentially reduce your risk of cancer.
Still, remember that these studies show an association
between carrot consumption and cancer, but don’t account for other factors that
may play a role.
Beans are high in fiber, which some studies have found may
help protect against colorectal cancer.
One study followed 1,905 people with a history of colorectal
tumors and found that those who consumed more cooked, dried beans tended to
have a decreased risk of tumor recurrence.
An animal study also found that feeding rats black beans or
navy beans and then inducing colon cancer blocked the development of cancer
cells by up to 75%.
According to these results, eating a few servings of beans
each week may increase your fiber intake and help lower the risk of developing
However, the current research is limited to animal studies
and studies that show an association but not causation. More studies are needed
to examine this in humans, specifically.
Berries are high in anthocyanin's, plant pigments that have
antioxidant properties and may be associated with a reduced risk of cancer.
In one human study, 25 people with colorectal cancer were
treated with bilberry extract for seven days, which was found to reduce the
growth of cancer cells by 7%.
Another small study gave freeze-dried black raspberries to
patients with oral cancer and showed that it decreased levels of certain
markers associated with cancer progression.
One animal study found that giving rats freeze-dried black
raspberries reduced esophageal tumor incidence by up to 54% and decreased the
number of tumors by up to 62%.
Similarly, another animal study showed that giving rats a
berry extract was found to inhibit several biomarkers of cancer.
Based on these findings, including a serving or two of
berries in your diet, each day may help inhibit the development of cancer.
Keep in mind that these are the animal and observational
studies looking at the effects of a concentrated dose of berry extract, and
more human research is needed.
Cinnamon is well-known for its health benefits, including
its ability to reduce blood sugar and ease inflammation.
In addition, some test-tube and animal studies have found
that cinnamon may help block the spread of cancer cells.
A test-tube study found that cinnamon extract was able to
decrease the spread of cancer cells and induce their death.
Another test-tube study showed that cinnamon essential oil
suppressed the growth of head and neck cancer cells, and also significantly
reduced tumor size.
An animal study also showed that cinnamon extract induced cell
death in tumor cells, and also decreased how much tumors grew and spread.
Including 1/2–1 teaspoon (2–4 grams) of cinnamon in your
diet per day may be beneficial in cancer prevention, and may come with other
benefits as well, such as reduced blood sugar and decreased inflammation.
However, more studies are needed to understand how cinnamon
may affect cancer development in humans.
Research has found that eating nuts may be linked to a lower
risk of certain types of cancer.
For instance, a study looked at the diets of 19,386 people
and found that eating a greater amount of nuts was associated with a decreased
risk of dying from cancer.
Another study followed 30,708 participants for up to 30
years and found that eating nuts regularly was associated with a decreased risk
of colorectal, pancreatic and endometrial cancers.
Other studies have found that specific types of nuts may be
linked to a lower cancer risk.
For example, Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which may
help protect against lung cancer in those with a low selenium status.
Similarly, one animal study showed that feeding mice walnuts
decreased the growth rate of breast cancer cells by 80% and reduced the number
of tumors by 60%.
These results suggest that adding a serving of nuts to your
diet each day may reduce your risk of developing cancer in the future.
Still, more studies in humans are needed to determine
whether nuts are responsible for this association, or whether other factors are
7. Olive Oil
Olive oil is loaded with health benefits, so it’s no wonder
it’s one of the staples of the Mediterranean diet.
Several studies have even found that a higher intake of
olive oil may help protect against cancer.
One massive review made up of 19 studies showed that people
who consumed the greatest amount of olive oil had a lower risk of developing
breast cancer and cancer of the digestive system than those with the lowest
Another study looked at the cancer rates in 28 countries
around the world and found that areas with a higher intake of olive oil had
decreased rates of colorectal cancer.
Swapping out other oils in your diet for olive oil is a
simple way to take advantage of its health benefits. You can drizzle it over
salads and cooked vegetables, or try using it in your marinades for meat, fish
Though these studies show that there may be an association
between olive oil intake and cancer, there are likely other factors involved as
well. More studies are needed to look at the direct effects of olive oil on
cancer in people.
Turmeric is a spice well-known for its health-promoting
properties. Curcumin, its active ingredient, is a chemical with
anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and even anticancer effects.
One study looked at the effects of Curcumin on 44 patients
with lesions in the colon that could have become cancerous. After 30 days, 4
grams of Curcumin daily reduced the number of lesions present by 40%.
In a test-tube study, Curcumin was also found to decrease
the spread of colon cancer cells by targeting a specific enzyme related to
Another test-tube study showed that Curcumin helped kill off
head and neck cancer cells.
Curcumin has also been shown to be effective in slowing the
growth of lung, breast, and prostate cancer cells in other test-tube studies.
For the best results, aim for at least 1/2–3 teaspoons (1–3
grams) of ground turmeric per day. Use it as a ground spice to add flavor to
foods, and pair it with black pepper to help boost its absorption.
9. Citrus Fruits
Eating citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruits, and
oranges have been associated with a lower risk of cancer in some studies.
One large study found that participants who ate a higher
amount of citrus fruits had a lower risk of developing cancers of the digestive
and upper respiratory tracts.
A review looking at nine studies also found that a greater
intake of citrus fruits was linked to a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer.
Finally, a review of 14 studies showed that a high intake,
or at least three servings per week, of citrus fruit, reduced the risk of
stomach cancer by 28%.
These studies suggest that including a few servings of
citrus fruits in your diet each week may lower your risk of developing certain
types of cancer.
Keep in mind that these studies don’t account for other
factors that may be involved. More studies are needed on how citrus fruits
specifically affect cancer development.
High in fiber as well as heart-healthy fats, flaxseed can be
a healthy addition to your diet.
Some research has shown that it may even help decrease
cancer growth and help kill off cancer cells.
In one study, 32 women with breast cancer received either a
flaxseed muffin daily or a placebo for over a month.
At the end of the study, the flaxseed group had decreased
levels of specific markers that measure tumor growth, as well as an increase in
cancer cell death.
In another study, 161 men with prostate cancer were treated
with flaxseed, which was found to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Flaxseed is high in fiber, which other studies have found to
be protective against colorectal cancer.
Try adding one tablespoon (10 grams) of ground flaxseed into
your diet each day by mixing it into smoothies, sprinkling it over cereal and
yogurt, or adding it to your favorite baked goods.
Lycopene is a compound found in tomatoes that is responsible
for its vibrant red color as well as its anticancer properties.
Several studies have found that an increased intake of
lycopene and tomatoes could lead to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
A review of 17 studies also found that a higher intake of
raw tomatoes, cooked tomatoes, and lycopene were all associated with a reduced
risk of prostate cancer.
Another study of 47,365 people found that a greater intake
of tomato sauce, in particular, was linked to a lower risk of developing
To help increase your intake, include a serving or two of
tomatoes in your diet each day by adding them to sandwiches, salads, sauces or
Still, remember that these studies show there may be an
association between eating tomatoes and a reduced risk of prostate cancer, but
they don’t account for other factors that could be involved.
The active component in garlic is allicin, a compound that
has been shown to kill off cancer cells in multiple test-tube studies.
Several studies have found an association between garlic
intake and a lower risk of certain types of cancer.
One study of 543,220 participants found that those who ate
lots of Allium vegetables, such as garlic, onions, leeks, and shallots, had a
lower risk of stomach cancer than those who rarely consumed them.
A study of 471 men showed that a higher intake of garlic was
associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Another study found that participants who ate lots of
garlic, as well as fruit, deep yellow vegetables, dark green vegetables, and
onions, were less likely to develop colorectal tumors. However, this study did
not isolate the effects of garlic.
Based on these findings, including 2–5 grams (approximately
one clove) of fresh garlic into your diet per day can help you take advantage
of its health-promoting properties.
However, despite the promising results showing an
association between garlic and a reduced risk of cancer, more studies are
needed to examine whether other factors play a role.
13. Fatty Fish
Some research suggests that including a few servings of fish
in your diet each week may reduce your risk of cancer.
One large study showed that a higher intake of fish was
associated with a lower risk of digestive tract cancer.
Another study that followed 478,040 adults found that eating
more fish decreased the risk of developing colorectal cancer, while red and
processed meats actually increased the risk.
In particular, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and
anchovies contain important nutrients such as vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids
that have been linked to a lower risk of cancer.
For example, having adequate levels of vitamin D is believed
to protect against and reduce the risk of cancer.
In addition, omega-3 fatty acids are thought to block the
development of the disease.
Aim for two servings of fatty fish per week to get a hearty
dose of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, and to maximize the potential health
benefits of these nutrients.
Still, more research is needed to determine how fatty fish
consumption may directly influence the risk of cancer in humans.