Study: Cut Alcohol, Up Plant Foods for Lower Cancer Risk

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Low alcohol consumption and a plant-based diet, part of AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, are associated with reducing the risk of colorectal and other obesity-related cancers, finds a new study, adding to a growing body of independent research on how following AICR’s recommendations links to lower cancer risk, longer survival, and improved overall health.Wines_FD001551_7

This latest study was published in Cancer Causes & Control. You can read more about the other studies investigating AICR recommendations here.

The Cancer Causes & Control study included almost 3,000 cancer-free adults who had no history of cancer. Participants were part of the ongoing Framingham Heart Study. Back in 1991, everyone filled out a questionnaire about how much they weighed, what they ate and their activity habits.

After almost 12 years, 480 of the participants had developed an obesity-related cancer, such as colorectal or breast.

Study researchers then scored how much participants met seven of AICR’s recommendations, giving them zero, half point or one point. The scoring included recommendations on body fat, physical activity, limiting red and processed meats, limiting alcohol and eating a diet based in fruits, vegetables and other plant foods.

After taking into account other factors that could contribute to cancer risk, such as age and smoking, the researchers found that two recommendations linked to reduced cancer risk: eating a plant-based diet and limiting alcohol.

Limiting alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day reduced the risk of breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined. And among the group who ate starchy vegetables, eating plenty of non-starchy plant foods (fruits, vegetables, and legumes) was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.

The overall score was not associated with obesity-related cancer risk. This could be due to several limitations of the study, says the lead author Nour Makarem, a nutrition doctoral student at New York University.

Each AICR recommendation was assigned an equal weight. AICR research shows that staying a healthy weight is the single most important recommendation people can do to reduce cancer risk. “It is also important to keep in mind that baseline data was used to create the score in this study, so this may not be reflective of the participants’ lifetime intake, activity level and body fatness or during the critical exposure window that affects cancer risk,” Makarem said.

Here’s the complete list of AICR’s ten recommendations for cancer prevention, and the evidence behind each one.

The study was funded by the American Cancer Society. The Framingham Heart Study cohort is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in collaboration with Boston University.


Author: Mya Nelson

Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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