Cancer: The food shown to have a ‘direct association’ to cancer – and it’s not meat

Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for

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Cancer remains a major scourge worldwide, despite vast resources being devoted to finding a cure. Growing evidence points to the role diet may play in the development of cancer. A 2008 study published in the Nutrition and Cancer journal found a “direct association” between refined cereals and stomach cancer.

Foods that have been processed and stripped of their nutritional values are known as refined foods.

Refined cereals include cake, desserts, white bread, pasta, muffins, sweet or savoury biscuits, refined grain breakfast cereals, white rice, pancakes, waffles and pizza.

The study in question investigated the role of a wide range of foods and beverages on the risk of stomach cancer.

Researchers analysed data from a case-control study carried out in Italy between 1997 and 2007 on 230 subjects with confirmed stomach cancer (143 men and 87 women, age range 22–80 years and 547 controls (286 men and 261 women, age range 22–80 years) admitted to hospital for acute, non-neoplastic diseases.

A neoplasm is an abnormal growth of cells in the body, also described as a tumour.

A “direct association” with stomach cancer risk was observed for cereals, for the highest compared to the lowest quintile of intake, the researchers observed.

A quintile is any of five equal groups into which a population can be divided according to the distribution of values of a particular variable. It is one of the most common metrics in statistical analysis.

Conversely, inverse trends in risk were observed with vegetables and fruit intake.

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“The results of this study confirm a protective role of vegetables and fruit against stomach cancer and suggest a detrimental effect of (refined) cereals on this neoplasm,” the researchers concluded.

Multiple studies over the years have drawn an association between refined cereals and the risk of cancer.

A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded “refined grains were directly related to the risk of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx”.

Although the researchers acknowledged “causality and the biological interpretation remain open to discussion”.

Diet and cancer – what health bodies say

Cancer Research UK explains: “If something is carcinogenic, it means that it could cause cancer.”

According to the charity, there aren’t many foods that cause cancer, but eating processed and red meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer.

The health body is keen to bust some myths surrounding the role diet may play in the prevention of cancer.

“Some people have suggested that green tea might reduce the risk of cancer. This is because it contains catechin – an antioxidant that seems to stop tumour growth in rats,” it explains.

“But results from large studies have not shown that green tea reduces the risk of cancer in humans.”

Cancer – symptoms to spot

Symptoms of cancer are often subtle or non-existent in the beginning. Symptoms of lung cancer develop as the condition progresses.

General cancer symptoms include:

  • Unexplained pain or ache
  • Very heavy night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unusual lump or swelling anywhere
  • Fatigue.

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