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San Diego Researcher Helps Draft New Dietary Guidelines For Cancer Prevention

Evening Edition

Aired 6/9/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Dr. Gordon Saxe, UC San Diego Health Center


Six new dietary guidelines for cancer prevention are out and they're more aggressive than previous prevention advice.

Dr. Gordon Saxe of UC San Diego Health System co-authored the new recommendations from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition Monday.

The guidelines encourage people to limit alcohol, dairy products, red and processed meats and emphasize a diet high in soy products, fruits and vegetables.

The six dietary recommendations to reduce risk of several types of cancer are:

Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer

Findings: Consuming 35 grams of dairy protein each day — the equivalent of one and a half cups of cottage cheese — increases risk of prostate cancer by 32 percent. Drinking two glasses of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent.

Note: Calcium supplements appear to have the same effect as milk intake. Men who supplement with more than 400 milligrams of calcium per day increase risk for fatal prostate cancer by 51 percent.

Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast

Findings: One drink per week increases risk of mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers by 24 percent. Two to three drinks per day increase risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

Note: The alcohol itself (rather than additives) appears to be the cause of cancer, and all types of alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, and spirits) are problematic.

Avoid red and processed meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum

Findings: Each 50 gram daily serving of processed meat — equivalent to two slices of bacon or one sausage link — increases risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. Each 120 gram daily serving of red meat, equivalent to a small steak, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 28 percent.

Note: The heme iron, nitrites, heterocyclic amines, and overabundance of essential amino acids in red and processed meats are all believed to contribute to cancerous cell growth in the body.

Avoid grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas

Findings: Four types of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are associated with cancer of the colon and rectum. HCAs form from creatine and amino acids in cooked skeletal muscle, increasing with higher cooking times and higher temperatures. When ingested, HCAs can disrupt DNA synthesis.

Note: In addition to the cancers listed above, HCAs are also associated, to a weaker extent, with cancers of the breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.

Consume soy products to reduce risk of breast cancer and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer

Findings: Evidence from Asian and Western countries shows that soy products are associated with reduced cancer risk. Chinese women who consume more than 11.3 grams of soy protein, equivalent to half a cup of cooked soybeans, each day during adolescence have a 43 percent reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer, compared with women who consume 1.7 grams. Research in Shanghai shows that women with breast cancer who consume 11 grams of soy protein each day can reduce mortality and risk of recurrence by about 30 percent. U.S. populations show similar findings: the higher the isoflavone intake from soy products, the less risk of mortality and recurrence in women with breast cancer.

Note: When choosing soy products, opt for natural forms, such as edamame, tempeh, or organic tofu, as opposed to soy protein concentrates and isolates, common in powders and pills.

Emphasize fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer

Findings: Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, help reduce overall cancer risk. A high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, is associated with an 18 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer and reduced risk of lung and stomach cancers. Women who consume the most carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, lower their risk of breast cancer by 19 percent. Overall, women who consume the highest quantities of any kind of fruit or vegetable reduce breast cancer risk by 11 percent. A high intake of tomato products has been shown to reduce risk of gastric cancer by 27 percent. Garlic and other allium vegetables, such as onions, significantly reduce risk for gastric cancer, while a Western diet (high amounts of meat and fat with minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables) doubles the risk.

Note: Some components in soybeans, green tea, turmeric, grapes, tomatoes, and other plant foods have the ability to regulate apoptosis (a natural process for destroying unhealthy cells), an important pathway for cancer prevention.

“There’s considerable benefit--and no harm—in loading up with plant-based foods,” notes study author Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “Large bodies of research show fruits, vegetables, and legumes offer a variety of protective properties, so why not move these foods to the center of our plates?”

The World Health Organization states that a significant percentage of cancers can be prevented by following a healthful diet, avoiding tobacco, leading an active lifestyle, and limiting alcohol intake.

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Avatar for user 'dlwintermia'

dlwintermia | June 13, 2014 at 2:52 p.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

I hate being such a nudge, but I've spent my entire adult life, which is over 45 years, reading about food, cooking and health. I started with the famous (at that time) or infamous Adelle Davis. Since then, from time to time, I've latched on to other food saviors, the latest one being Andrew Weil.

Now, I realize that it doesn't matter what you eat, rather just how much of it you eat.

This morning I was up early to go to the hospital for an ultra-scan of my liver. Since I was finished by 7:15, I thought I'd go to Trader Joe's in Mission Valley. Fortunately I had a book with me so that I could read while I waited for them to open at 8:00 AM. While waiting an entire carload of obese women pulled up to do their shopping. I don't know if you've noticed, but now the people who shop in Trader Joe's are also getting bigger and bigger. Is this healthy? Does it really matter what they eat when they're piling on the pounds in preparation for their audition for "My 600 pound life?"

After my more than 45 years as an adult I have learned a few things. One, it probably doesn't matter so much about what you eat, rather how much of it you eat. Have a little fun! Stress and eating as a result of stress do far more damage to your body and your mind than laughing your butt off at a movie. Lastly, I have lived in France for a good ten years and never reject quality for quantity. They don't even sell margarine in France. The French can't figure out what it is and why anyone would eat it. There's nothing wrong with loving food and wine (wine being a food). Kick back, never take less than two hours for lunch and three hours for dinner and I guarantee you will live longer. Have a conversation at a table while you're eating will help too. Don't eat together as a family sitting on the couch in front of the TV.

Okay, you have my guidelines. My last thought is that all of us have better things to do than make up guidelines which will change again in a couple of years. Follow my guidelines and you will have a much healthier and happier life. Anxiously await formulated guidelines from health organizations and the government and you'll be dead before they can make any decisions about what we should or shouldn't eat.

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