Attending AICR’s Annual Research Conference is a little like standing under a waterfall—it’s hard to drink it all in. That’s because the Conference brings together some of the world’s leading researchers in cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship, and provides them the opportunity to share their research, passion, and experiences, all in one place.
What did I learn from the conference? A lot. But if I were to sum it up in a short list, I would include these three takeaway messages:
1. Preparation matters. How I prepare my food is more important than I thought. Gently steaming broccoli and other crucifers; chopping or blending carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables; and slow-cooking meat can make a difference in reducing my cancer risk.
This article from Health has more information about the research presented on the role of food preparation techniques in reducing cancer risk.
2. Variety matters. A varied diet that includes lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other plant-based foods — the New American Plate — offers multiple weapons against multiple targets. It’s like “combination chemotherapy,” said Robert Chapkin, PhD, Professor at Texas A&M University.
In one session, Chapkin presented data from his research showing that dietary fiber and the omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil work in a synergistic way to induce programmed cell death—a key step in preventing cancer.
3. Lifestyle matters—for a long time. The decisions I make about diet and exercise can have far-reaching, multi-generational effects!
Researchers spoke about how diet can cause epigenetic changes to your DNA—changes that can be passed from parent to child, without changing its overall sequence. These changes switch on protective genes that may be passed on to later generations. So, eating right and moving more might prevent my children and grandchildren from getting cancer. Isn’t that an encouraging thought?
I suppose there’s a fourth takeaway I’d have to tack on to the end of my list and that’s this:
Teresa L. Johnson, MSPH, RDN, is a nutrition and health communications consultant with a long-time interest in the role of plant-based diets and cancer prevention. Her work draws on elements of nutritional biochemistry, phytochemistry, toxicology, and epidemiology.