MSD Manual

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Quick Facts

Diet and Cancer

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jul 2021| Content last modified Jul 2021
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Can your diet cause or prevent cancer?

Doctors have done many studies to find out if your diet (eating certain types of food) can raise or lower your chance of getting cancer.

  • Doctors don’t know for sure if some foods and nutrients raise or lower your chance of cancer because different studies find different results

  • Doctors know that being overweight or obese will raise your chance of cancer

  • Some types of food have been studied more than others, and doctors continue to study the effects of diet on getting cancer

Some studies show the following may raise your chance of cancer:

  • Supplements high in vitamin A, vitamin E, or calcium may raise your chance of prostate cancer

  • Foods high in saturated fat

  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, may raise your chance of prostate cancer

  • Processed meats, such as lunch meat, hams, and hot dogs, may raise you chance of stomach and colon cancer

  • Grilled or broiled meats

  • Large amounts of foods that have been pickled or salted may raise your chance of stomach and throat cancer

  • High amounts of soy supplements may raise your chance of breast cancer

Some studies show the following may lower your chance of cancer:

  • Lycopene, found mostly in tomatoes

  • Higher vitamin D levels and calcium supplements may lower your chance of colon cancer

  • Folic acid may lower your chance of colon cancer

  • Vitamin D may lower your chance of prostate and colon cancer

The following have been studied by doctors but haven’t been shown to raise or lower your chance of getting cancer:

  • Vitamins or other substances with antioxidants, such as selenium

  • Foods grown organically, changed genetically, or treated with pesticides to kill bugs

  • Coffee and tea

  • High fiber foods

  • Fluoride in water or toothpaste

  • Food additives

  • Garlic

  • Foods that have been radiated to kill germs

  • Saccharin (artificial sweetener)

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