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Red Wine, Microwaves and Local Produce: Preventing Cancer Through Our Diets

Leading Researchers Discuss the Latest Breakthroughs and the Best Forms of Cancer Prevention

Eating a balanced diet and preparing your food in the correct way may be your best defense against developing cancer, according to top cancer researchers Professor Attilio Giacosa and Professor Jaak Janssens. In two interviews published on the LWWPartnerships website ( this month, Prof Giacosa explains how a preventative diet boosts the body’s natural defenses, while Prof Janssens discusses the latest developments in breast cancer prevention.

Prof Giacosa, head of the Department of Gastroenterology at Policlinico di Monza in Italy, is one of the most vocal supporters of the “preventative diet,” advocating the consumption of fruit and vegetables as one of the best means of cancer prevention. He explains that the benefit of fruit and vegetables has been proven “through epidemiological data and observations in population groups with cancer that were compared to age and sex matched groups without cancer.”

“If we look at the diet and eating habits of both groups,” Prof Giacosa explains, “case-control studies have irrefutably demonstrated a protective role of fruits and vegetables against many types of cancer in diverse social, environmental, geographic situations, especially for tumours of the lung, oral cavity, oesophagus, stomach, and intestine.”

Oranges, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are among some of the most beneficial foods. But it’s not only what we eat, but how we eat it, that optimizes the cancer-preventing qualities of fruit and vegetables.

“The optimal approach [is] to consume vegetables grown within zero kilometers [of where you live], in the right season,” he says, emphasizing that the way in which we prepare our food is also important. “Using proper tools like sharp knives [reduces] the waste of crucial essences,” he explains, adding that “it’s really important to promote microwaved and steamed cooking, two great techniques.”

Prof Giacosa also advocates the consumption of a glass or two of wine every day, as it contains “all the active principals of fruit, especially polyphenols – a component of great significance because even the very colour of wine, the colour red or ruby, the flavours, the fragrances, are tied to specific compounds linked to polyphenols, themselves extremely beneficial to our organism.” Red wine is said to be more beneficial than white, though Prof Giacosa warns that, as with any food, moderating your consumption is key to reaping the benefits.

In his discussion on breast cancer prevention, Prof Janssens, President of the European Cancer Prevention Organization in Belgium, agrees that a balanced diet is beneficial. Recognizing that breast cancer is said to originate almost entirely at puberty, Prof Janssens explains that “changing the lifestyle of children will have an effect on growth characteristics (for example menarche) and secondary on breast cancer risk.”

There is an increasing focus on preventative studies in oncology research, as Prof Janssens explains that “treatment of cancer is often mutilating and toxic, and above all not able to cure all patients. To reduce mortality and mutilation as much as possible, prevention is the next step to go. If we consider for example that almost 90 % of lung cancers are from smoking, cessation of smoking would decrease mortality up to 85%.”

He goes on to discuss how the focus on cancer prevention has seen a marked decrease in breast cancer mortality.

“The decrease in breast cancer mortality has been mainly achieved by earlier detection through innovations in mammography, ultrasound, and tissue acquisition,” he says. “Another important issue is women's awareness. If they feel or see an abnormality, most women will seek immediate help. In addition, women at risk have been better identified by genetic testing, type of mammogram (dense breasts), and appropriately treated with hormonal medication.”

In the ongoing battle against cancer, methods of prevention are becoming an increasingly vital field of oncology research.

Katherine Alexander | alfa
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