Women can play a pivotal role in cancer prevention, according to Dr Thomas Varughese, Oncologist and Head of the Cancer Department, Renai City Hospital, Ernakulam. He says that over 50 percent of human cancers are diet-related. Almost all cancers show an increased trend, a few show alarming rise and cancer is a common word in several families. These include cancers of breast, ovary, uterus, and lung in women and head and neck, kidney, prostate, pancreas and lung cancers in men. Cancer cervix at least in Kerala shows a decreasing trend. Gastro intestinal cancers are almost equal in both sexes. Dr Thomas says excess of several types of food and ingredients is harmful and several invite cancer. Energy-dense foods, including milk, milk products, ghee, sugars, excess of oil are all harmful and leads to obesity. Fibres in the diet are nature’s blessing which not only forms bulk but the soluble fibres like bran of rice and wheat, rich in omega 3 fatty acids are best scavengers of toxic materials from the liver. Bran also gives B complex vitamins.
Excess salt, pickles or salted fish and meat are dangerous, according to modern studies. Energy -dense foods with sedentary life and lack of exercise changes body milieu and adds to an environment for genetically susceptible individuals to fall prey to cancer.
Hormone-related cancers like cancer of breast, ovary, uterus, thyroid, stomach, prostate etc has bearing on obesity status,where fat acts as a storage spot for the hormones. Oil, ghee etc which find a place in cooking finds a similar place.
Cancer Never Strikes Overnight
Non-vegetarian food has deleterious effect once consumed in excess (nitrasamines) which could act as carcinogen. Optimising and balancing of appropriate diet/servings fall within the purview of the woman (mother) of the family.
Coloured vegetables and fruits act as anti-cancer agents via anti-oxidants if consumed uncooked as in salads. Once consumed raw, they reduce weight, obesity, lowers cholesterol and does prevent cancer. However this rarely happens in many Malayali families. If the woman decides so, children of the family will follow the same which slowly will change society at large, he says.
Education regarding healthy diet and ideal nutrition combined with workout should get emphasis in school curriculum and be applied in every family. Only then will we can prevent cancer through dietary interventions. Cancer prevention starts in the kitchen, Dr Thomas adds.