You’ve surely seen plenty of headlines proclaiming the Mediterranean Diet among the healthiest ways to eat. What does the research behind these headlines mean about potential to reduce your risk of cancer? We need to step in and look more closely at these studies, and also step back to view their findings as part of the big picture on what we know about eating habits and cancer risk.
Does a Mediterranean Diet reduce cancer risk?
A growing number of studies do link a Mediterranean pattern of eating with lower cancer risk. But it’s important to emphasize that this is compared to people with low scores for “Mediterranean” eating –which usually means they have eating habits that include more meat, refined grains and sweets. These studies do not establish Mediterranean diets as more protective than other healthy ways of eating.
Cigarette smoking is linked to 18 different types of cancer. It is the leading preventable cause of cancer in the United States, accounting for 19 percent of the 1,570,978 cancers diagnosed in U.S. adults ages 30 and older in 2014, according to the latest research. Another 0.4 percent of the cancer diagnoses in the U.S. that year were attributable to exposure to secondhand smoke.
That’s why April, which is National Cancer Control Month, is a good time to raise awareness of the dangers of cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. And it’s especially important to highlight the need for new efforts to reduce cigarette smoking, particularly among the segments of the U.S. population that have elevated smoking rates.
Being diagnosed with cancer is a traumatic event. Indeed, some estimates say that 1 in 4 women diagnosed with breast cancer suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a direct result of their diagnosis. The number may be even higher for diagnoses with other types of cancer. Despite the acknowledged trauma of a diagnosis, most if not all cancer survivor will have been told, at some point or other, to “stay positive”! Such advice is certainly well-intentioned. There is a strong and enduring belief that maintaining a positive outlook actually improves patient outcomes. However, the scientific evidence is now very clear; attitude and personality traits do not significantly impact recurrence or survival rates.