Eating and Cancer Prevention: Fact or Fiction?

Karol Sekulic, registered dietician and education resources program lead for nutrition services at AHS, weighs in

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1. Sugary drinks cause cancer

Sekulic says that while soft drinks and other high sugar beverages don’t cause cancer directly, they can be a contributing factor to obesity, which is linked to several different types of cancer. Pop, energy drinks and fruit punches are high in calories but low in health benefits, making them poor choices for anyone who wants to maintain a healthy body weight, a key factor in cancer prevention.

2. Canned foods should be avoided because the bisphenol A (BPA) found in the lining of cans can cause cancer

The jury is still out on BPA’s contribution to cancer rates, but those who are concerned may want to avoid canned food and stick to fresh or frozen vegetables when available. That said, when it comes to cancer prevention, it’s important to get a lot of fibre and plant-based proteins, and often the most convenient way to do so is through canned beans and legumes, which shouldn’t be sacrificed in favour of going completely BPA-free. Beans and legumes can also be purchased dry, but do require soaking overnight before preparation, which is a less convenient option. “There has been enough evidence to show that BPA exposure is questionable,” Sekulic says. “But if people are undergoing treatment, it’s not a focus — they have to meet their nutrient needs first.”

3. Eating red meat is linked to cancer

Red meat is linked specifically to colorectal cancer rates (though Sekulic is hesitant to say that any food outright “causes” cancer). It’s recommended that people eat no more than 500 g of red meat per week, which includes beef, pork, lamb and goat. Processed meats like bacon or cold cuts should also be limited as much as possible.

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