Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information About nutrition for All

Diet and Cancer Risk: Separating Myth from Fact

Cancer being the second leading cause of death in the United States, many people may wonder what dietary steps they can take to lower their cancer risk. Understandably, in today’s digital world, they often look to the internet for answers. However, false claims about diet and cancer risk are abundant online.

To help people avoid falling into health misinformation traps, it is key for dietitians to educate them on current evidence related to diet and cancer risk, and direct patients to appropriate resources that provide reliable nutrition information.

Myth #1: Sugar causes cancer.


Fact: Sugar, or glucose, is found in foods in the forms of simple carbohydrates (often found in processed or refined foods) and complex carbohydrates (usually found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). “Although the body cannot control which cells use glucose and which do not, what can be controlled is the quality of the carbohydrates in our diets.

Excessive intake of high calorie sweets or simple carbohydrates can lead to obesity, which is known to increase cancer risk. Patients should focus on consuming sources of complex carbohydrates regularly, and to enjoy sweets and treats in moderation to prevent excessive weight gain

Myth #2: Soy and flax cause breast cancer.


Fact: Although some animal studies once led people to believe that isoflavones, compounds found in soy, were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, studies of soy intake in humans have indicated the opposite

Myth #3: Juicing is a cure-all for cancer.

Juices 1

Fact: Despite its online popularity, juicing is not a one-step solution for reducing cancer risk and could actually cause dietary issues if it replaces other food groups in the diet.

Juice should not be used to meet basic nutrient needs, as it significantly reduces the consumption of multiple foods groups, as well as the amount of protein intake. Juicing can be used as a way to add more fruits and vegetables to an already balanced, healthy eating plan and is a good idea if swallowing is an issue.

Myth #4: Alkaline diets help with cancer risk reduction. An acidic environment is “toxic” to the body and increases cancer risk, whereas an alkaline environment is protective.


Fact: Many people adopt alkaline diets, another popular online diet fad, under the impression that certain foods can throw off the body’s pH balance, and that the alkaline diet can help restore this balance. Alkaline dietary products are also heavily promoted by marketers hoping to capitalize on claims that this diet can lower cancer risk. However, there are no studies to back up these claims.

With kidneys and lungs functioning normally, the body is able to maintain optimal pH balance, regardless of diet.

Myth #5: Organic foods are healthy and cancer protective.

nutrient rich diet

Fact: There is insufficient evidence to support that organic foods are more cancer protective than non-organic foods.

Know that including plant-based foods—whether organic, conventional, or frozen—is optimal for health.

Myth #6: Certain dietary supplements may reduce cancer risk.


Fact: Americans spend billions of dollars per year on multivitamins and supplements that claim to offer a variety of health benefits. However, whether they actually help improve health outcomes in the general population remains questionable.

Research does not support the use of dietary supplements as an effective strategy to reduce cancer risk. Dietary supplements are not regulated, and in fact, high intakes of certain dietary supplements may actually be harmful and could interact with medications or treatment.

Achieve adequate vitamin and mineral intake from nutrient-dense, whole foods rather than supplements. It is also important to discuss all vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplement use with your care team.


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