February is National Cancer Prevention Month written by Kristen Nicole, MS student at Hunter College

Friday, February 25, 2022 8:05 PM | Anonymous

February is National Cancer Prevention Month. As registered dietitians, we know that eating well can help prevent and beat cancer in a variety of ways. While we know that there is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, there are certain risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood. In the United States, men have a 1 in 2-lifetime risk of developing cancer; and for women, the risk is 1 in 3. Registered dietitians can help patients reduce the risk of cancer by educating and encouraging diet and lifestyle modifications that promote healthy choices, along with following the recommended screening guidelines to encourage early detection.

While nutrition guidelines for cancer prevention are similar to the prevention of other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, diet is one of the most important aspects a person can control to reduce their cancer risk, along with other lifestyle modifications.

Here are general nutrition recommendations that help prevent cancer:

Maintain a healthy weight

Partake in regular physical activity and consume a healthy, well-balanced diet. Obesity can cause long-term inflammation in the body, which may increase cancer risk. Also, excess weight can also cause increased levels of certain hormones, which can increase the risk of certain cancers.

Follow a Healthy Eating Pattern

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends eating nutrient-dense foods including a variety from all food groups. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and make at least half your grains whole grains. Cancer prevention evidence supports the recommendation of a diet that is predominantly plant-based, with limited, if any, intake of red and processed meats. It is also recommended to limit added sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods, and refined grain products.

Exercise regularly

Strive for at least 30 minutes of physical activity as part of your daily routine. At least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic physical activity is recommended to reduce cancer risk.

Avoid Alcohol

Studies show that alcohol consumption causes several types of cancer. In order to prevent or reduce the risk of cancer, there is no safe level of consumption. It is believed that the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher their risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer.

Quit Smoking

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the US, accounting for about 1 in 5 deaths each year. Most people know smoking can cause cancer, and about 80% of lung cancers, as well as 80% of all lung cancer deaths, are due to smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. No forms of smoking are safe.

To learn more about diet and cancer prevention, as well as diet and nutrition during and after cancer treatment, patients are always encouraged to consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.


1. Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, Gapstur SM, McCullough ML, Patel AV, Andrews KS, Bandera EV, Spees CK, Robien K, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2020;70:245–71.

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