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Can diet reduce cancer risk? 

Healthy choices have long-lasting effects 

YOU HAVE THE POWER to reduce your risk for cancer. With a few lifestyle changes and perseverance, you can be well on your way to a healthier you. 

Being overweight and obese is linked to an increased risk of many cancers. Increasing your physical activity and implementing dietary changes can help you maintain a healthy weight. 

As always, continue to follow any diet restrictions recommended by your physician. 

1. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes every day. 

Focus on whole, fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods contain fiber and other beneficial vitamins and minerals. Flash-frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option, too, if there are no added ingredients. 

2. Choose whole grains instead of refined products. 

Eliminate refined grains from your daily meals (white bread, pasta and white rice). Opt instead for whole grain versions of bread, pasta and cereal, and stick to brown rice. 

3. Avoid sugary drinks and limit high-calorie, calorie-dense foods. 

A diet high in added sugar can contribute to excessive weight gain. Limit your intake of sugary beverages (soft drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks) as well as calorie-dense foods like fast foods, cookies, doughnuts and other sweets. 

4. Limit alcohol consumption. 

There is now evidence that links alcohol to an increased risk for many cancers, including cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, breast and colorectum. For those who drink alcohol, consumption should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink is defined as either 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1/2 ounce of distilled spirits or hard liquor. 

5. Limit red and processed meats. 

There is some evidence that suggests red meat consumption can contribute to risk of colorectal cancer. Moderation is recommended at less than 12–18 ounces of red meat per week. If you eat red meat, eat smaller portions and leaner cuts of meat. Or opt for fish, poultry or beans instead. Try to cut back on processed meats like bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs. 

For additional information and recommendations on nutrition and its relation to cancer risk, visit the American Institute of Cancer Research at www.aicr.org.

RACHEL C. MILLER, MS, RD, CSO, LD, is a registered dietitian at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center. 

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