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Prevent Cancer with a Vegetarian Diet

Updated on October 15, 2010

Prevent Cancer

Cancer is becoming more and more prevalent these days, whether it's breast cancer, colon cancer, or lung cancer. It has become more of a fear. In some cases, there's not much you can do to prevent cancer, as some believe that some forms of cancer are hereditary, but others believe that some forms of cancer are situational and environmental.

For the hereditary cancer, I'm not sure what one can do to potentially prevent cancer, but in regards to situational and environment cancer, there is evidence that a vegan or vegetarian diet can be a potential preventative.

Although, there isn't any 100 percent proof that changing to a vegetarian diet will prevent cancer there is evidence that it may because the overall diet is much healthier, and according to officials at the National Cancer Institute about 80 percent of cancer can actually be prevented by dietary changes.

Prevent Breast Cancer

About 1 in every 8 women develop breast cancer, so the odds of getting this form of cancer is rather high. The thought process of the increased risk of developing breast cancer is potentially caused by the extra preservatives, toxins, and unnatural fillers in foods. By changing to a vegetarian diet and eating healthier, one can potentially prevent the odds of developing breast cancer.

A diet that is low in sugar, minimizes dairy and meat products, and contains high levels of greens, fruits, and vitamin D, leads to higher odds of cancer prevention.

Vitamin D is essential for the immune system, as it aids the body in attacking cancer cells, especially breast cancer cells. The vitamin D prevents the cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. Try eating foods that are rich in vitamin D, such as mushrooms, dark leafy green vegetables, fish oil, soy milk, and rice milk. You can also find enriched breads and grains. Also, keep in mind that you can absorb vitamin D from the sun; fair skinned individuals will benefit from 10-15 minutes a day, while darker skinned individuals will benefit from up to an hour a day.

It is thought that diets that are rich in fats, meat, and dairy products cause hormones to flourish and excess saturated fat, which can potentially cause breast cancer, but vegetarian and vegan diets can prevent if not reverse breast cancer.

There are many reports of breast cancer survivors that have changed their diet after chemo and cancer treatments, and have reported many cancer-free years.

Prevent Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the most prevalent in Western societies because the average diets are rich in red meat, dairy, and fat, so by switching to a vegetarian diet, you can reduce the chances of contracting colon cancer.

Maintaining a diet rich in red meat and fats, shows about a 50% increased risk of developing colon cancer.

In one study, participants were put on either a vegetarian, red meat, or red meat and high-fiber diet for 15 days, and after the study, blood tests were taken from each participant. Those on the red meat diet had significantly higher levels of N-nitrosocompounds, which is a compound that can alter DNA and increase risks of colon cancer. The less meat in the diet and the more fiber that was in the diet the less N-nitrosocompounds that were detected. It's thought that the fiber helps to repair damaged DNA, as well as decrease the harmful compounds that stay in the colon.

Other Cancers that can Potentially be Prevented with Vegetarian Diet

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Male Lung Cancer (attributed to animal sources of protein and calcium)
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Pancreas Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Rectum Cancer
  • Stomach Cancer

Reasons a Vegetarian Diet can Prevent Cancer

  • Vegetarian diets typically include antioxidant-rich foods, which help fight free radicals which can cause cancer (Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamins A, C, D, and E are antioxidants that are quite beneficial to the body).
  • Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, which aid the immune system at destroying tumors.
  • A German study has sown that men who are vegetarians have twice the number of natural killer cell activity than men of the same age who have a more omnivorous diet.
  • It is thought that plant-based fibers, proteins, and diets can hinder cancer cell metastasis.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed physician. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor or a nutritionalist for any concerns or questions that you may have.


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    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      After dealing with ovarian cancer I have spent significant time researching the most beneficial diet to stay healthy and a primarily vegetarian diet seems to be the best. The China Study is very compelling and supports this theory. Thanks for the useful hub and motivation.

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 7 years ago

      Have you ever heard of Gerson therapy? Is an alternative therapy for cancer based on detoxification of the body and the elimination of animal protein. Maybe cancer can not be cured just with diet, but certainly the diet can do much, especially to prevent. I am vegan and I am very happy with my choice.

      This is a very interesting Hub and important topic.


    • lakeerieartists profile image

      Paula Atwell 7 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Whitney, I find your arguments very compelling, yet I have also been told very compelling arguments that say that humans were meant to be meat eaters, and not eat any grain. Or at least a very small amount of grain.

      Are there actually scientific studies that prove that a vegetarian or vegan diet prevents cancer across the board? I have not seen any that prove that. It would make more sense to me to hear that specific diets help prevent specific cancers in people more prone to get them genetically.

      While I do not deny that eating vegetarian is a more healthy diet than the average American diet, I do not believe that one must eat vegetarian to be healthy. Poor food choices in general, especially high carb diets with a lot of refined sugar are another large cause of poor health.

    • livewithrichard profile image

      Richard Bivins 7 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Interesting views here though I don't think I'm ready to give up red meat. I'm not quite sure this is really a way to prevent cancer as much as it is a way to reduce the risks of cancer. It is certainly a healthier way to live if you also include exercise and I am a proponent of positive thought attracting positive results.

    • maolaun profile image

      maolaun 7 years ago from Boston, MA

      I'm a pescatarian but on my way to being a real vegetarian. It’s SO hard to avoid seafood when you live in New England and were brought up on it. But for various reasons I plan on cutting that out of my diet soon. I really like this hub and had been aware of the correlation with a plant-based diet and reduced cancer-rates.

      If you haven't already, I suggest taking a look at the book The China Study. It launches a compelling argument on how switching to a plant-based diet can cure numerous diseases including cancer, MS, heart disease, and a ton more. The research is undeniable. The book also goes into explain how this research is overlooked by the FDA because they are influenced by the strength of the meat and dairy industries. SO they continue to recommend a higher and higher daily dose of meat when research suggests otherwise. It’s interesting. I watched a video lecture on it for a class in college.

      Great topic! Thanks for sharing. :)

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I'm trying to be more vegetarian, but haven't made a complete break yet. I do like a glass of skim milk at night with a banana before bed. We use meat more as a condiment now, for a bit of flavor in a bean dish or some such, rather than in big chunks as we used to eat it. I'm really learning to crave veggies.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Being a vegetarian has made all the difference in my health as well as my attitude (going green, the environment, etc.) Like your hub. Thanks

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      We are what we eat. Thanks for sharing.

    • joe w bennett profile image

      joe w bennett 7 years ago from Clinton, MS, US of A

      been trying to go vegan for years but keep backsliding...maybe this is the motivation I need...

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Great information, good to have the reminder as to why we have to keep that high veggie diet going. Thanks.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I heard this many a times that vegetarian diet prevents cancer. Thank you for your interesting hub.

    • Hub Llama profile image

      Hub Llama 7 years ago from Denver, CO

      Healthy is healthy, and all evidence points to eating better helping with just about everything from cancer to insomnia, but the evidence about vegetarian diets in particular (versus other healthy diet) is pretty thin.