Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer

Let's talk about cancer.

We all spend a lot of time thinking about diet for many things - diabetes, weight loss, hypertension, heart disease - but the fact is a great diet offers as much protection from cancers as it does from the usual suspects of cardiometabolic risk.

You'll find reports on recent research and Dr. Tim's answers to Ask Dr. Gourmet questions here in these sections. Have a question not answered here that's regarding diet, nutrition, and cancer? Send a question to

Types of Cancer

Breast Cancer »
Colorectal Cancer »
Prostate Cancer »
Other Cancers »

General Cancer Research News

Nuts and your risk of dying from cancer or heart disease
Over the years we've written Health & Nutrition Bites on nearly a dozen peer-reviewed studies that focus on nuts and their impact on all sorts of conditions, including poor cholesterol scores, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. This doesn't include those articles written about a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes nuts as one of its nine dietary components.

Reduce your cancer risk: eat watercress!
We know that eating more fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of cancer. In particular, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, watercress, and mustard greens, have been linked with a reduced risk of cancer. These vegetables contain a higher amount of a substance known as glucosinolates, which are known to be anti-carcinogenic. Watercress has the highest concentration of these substances, as well as high amounts of beta-carotene.

Taking Vitamins to Prevent Cancer or Heart Disease
I discourage my patients from taking most vitamins, as the research is fairly clear that for those who are not nutrient deficient or need supplementation for some other reason (like being vegan or pregnant), getting your vitamins from foods and not pills is better for you.

Drinking Coffee Reduces Your Risk
Yet another study has come out that supports drinking regular coffee. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Lene Frost Andersen and colleagues studied the relationship between coffee drinking and diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer (other than skin cancer), Parkinson's disease, gallstones, cirrhosis of the liver, and diabetes. These diseases have a strong inflammatory component, and coffee is known to be a major source of antioxidants in the diet.

Antioxidant Supplements May Be Bad For You
We know that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help you avoid heart disease as well several different types of cancers, including oral cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer and colon or rectal cancers. We also know that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help you avoid Alzheimer's Disease. But what is it, exactly, that's so protective?

Types of Cancers

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer: an Overview
Pancreatic cancer forms in the tissues of the pancreas. The incidence of pancreatic cancer is much lower than that of other cancers - only 3% of all cancers are pancreatic cancers - yet diagnosis is difficult because it is located behind the liver and stomach, deep in the body. It does, however, account for about 7% of all cancer-related deaths due to the aggressive nature of the tumor, the typically advanced stage at diagnosis, the challenges of surgery, and the limitations of existing drug therapies.

Esophageal Cancer

Mediterranean Diet and Esophageal Cancer
Less than 10% of those in Iran who are diagnosed with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma survive for 5 years or more past diagnosis. (By way of comparison, 84% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK survive 5 years or more.) Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world and fourth most common in developing countries. It is even more common in what is known as the "esophageal cancer belt," which includes Iran, China, and northern France.

Cervical Cancer

Ask Dr. Gourmet: Is eating soy products linked to cervical cancer?
I am a 54 year old woman who had cervical cancer back in 1987 when I had my hysterectomy. I still have both ovaries, but was also told that I shouldn't take estrogen due to the fact that I've had cancer in the past. I love soy products and I was wondering if there is a limit to how much I should intake before it can cause a medical problem, if any.

Skin Cancer

Eat Healthy to Avoid Skin Cancer
Cancer is caused by a multitude of factors, but one that we're sure of is cellular damage through oxidation. High levels of sun exposure causes this oxidative damage to skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer. On the other hand, we also know that antioxidants in the diet, like vitamins C and E, can help reduce this damage.

Thyroid Cancer

If I have had thyroid cancer, should I avoid eating fish?
I am in need of advice about diet because 20 years ago I had thyroid cancer, and my thyroid was removed. I have taken Levoxyl ever since. Recently I read a book that said I should not be eating fish or taking iodine in my vitamin supplements. Is this true? Eating fish is is one of the ways I feel full without overeating. My doctor is not knowledgeable about nutrition in my case.

Ovarian Cancer

Drinking black tea may reduce your risk of ovarian cancer
Judging from the women in my practice, ovarian cancer may well be the most-feared diagnosis, even more than breast cancer. Why? Because the vast majority of ovarian cancers are not detected until they are quite advanced: only 15% of all ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed at an early stage of the disease ( While about 44% of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis, that statistic is for all women diagnosed at all stages.

Oral and Digestive System Cancers

Tea and Digestive System Cancers
The flavonoids found in grapes, tea, red wine, cocoa, and coffee have been linked to all sorts of positive health effects, from helping protect cognitive function to helping to protect you from diabetes.

Eat your fruits and vegetables and keep your mouth happy
Oral cancer, primarily a disease that occurs in men, was the seventh most common form of cancer—for both sexes—in 2002. Over 210,000 deaths are caused each year by oral cavity and pharynx cancers. The primary risk factors are well known and include chewing and/or smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol. Often nutritional and dietary deficiencies are linked to oral cancers, but recent research studies have sought to determine the effect of fruit and vegetable intake.


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