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Lung & Oral Cancer: Prevention Through Nutrition Is Key.

Monday, June 21, 2010
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A few significant risk factors for developing oral, oesophageal and lung cancers are:
  • Overall quality of your diet (high in saturated fats or sodium)
  • Overweight / abdominal obesity
  • Chewing of tobacco/ betel quid (paan that contains areca nuts, catechu, lime)
  • Smoking beedi's and cigarettes
  • Alcohol abuse
A recent study has shown that tobacco chewing in Indian men is the strongest risk factor for oral cancer while tobacco smoking is the main risk factor for developing pharyngeal and oesophageal tumors.(1) Around 85-88% of lung cancers can be attributed to cigarette, beedi or hookah smoking.

According to an ICMR census in 2000 (Indian Council of Medical Research), a total of 41,000 cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in India. 2007 numbers were anticipated to be 60,000 new cases, an alarming increase.
The male population as against female population is more prone to lung cancer in a ratio of 6:1 but the scene is changing slowly with more and more women taking up smoking.

Usually there are no early warning signs and symptoms, only when it has spread all over rather alarmingly that it becomes apparent. If you show any of these signs or symptoms please take them seriously:
 •  Persistent cough                                                               • Coughing up blood
 •  Chest pain                                                                         • Hoarseness
 •  Sudden onset of wheezing                                                • Shortness of breath
 •  Weight loss and loss of appetite                                        • Fatigue
 •  Frequent lung infections, such as pneumonia.

Get regular screenings done to detect if any abnormalities are seen early.

However all is not lost if you quit smoking today!!

Passive smoking (breathing other people's cigarette smoke) is equally as damaging to the lungs, eg. Children of parents who smoke are just as susceptible to the hazards of cigarette smoke as the parents themselves.

According to the American Cancer Society, the single most important dietary intervention to lower risk for cancer is eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Adopting a diet rich in plant sources provides phyto-chemicals that possess health protective benefits.

It's important to achieve your ideal body weight. Both obesity and underweight must be addressed.

A balanced diet is very important with special emphasis on certain healthy foods.

Food Groups                           NV recommends these foods                                         NV does not recommend these
Cereals & grains                     Whole grain cereals                                                           Refined cereals

Meat/ Substitute                     Plant protein with  phyto-estrogens                                    Red meat, cured meats, smoked meats.
                                                 such as soy products, all beans & lentils.                          Ham, sausage and smoked fish should
                                                 Lean meat, Fish and foods rich in                                      be taken only in moderation if at all. 
                                                 Omega 3's
Fats & Oils                               Healthy cooking oils such as Olive oil,                               Trans-fats & high-cholesterol foods
                                                  Safflower and Canola oils. Total fat
                                                  intake should not be more than 30 % of
                                                  your calorie intake because, be it saturated
                                                  or unsaturated fats as both have been
                                                  attributed to the development of cancer.    

Vegetables & Fruits               Vitamin A (Beta Carotene), Vitamin E,
                                                 and Vitamin C. Vitamins A and C are
                                                 Cancer protective- All types of leafy green
                                                 vegetables and other green vegetables, such as
                                                  Asparagus, all bean families and bell peppers
                                                  (capsicum all colors); Red, yellow-orange
                                                  vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, carrots,
                                                   beets, potatoes, apricots and pineapples, are also
                                                  good sources. Fruits such as mangoes, lemons,
                                                  oranges, and grapefruit, blue berries, cherries or
                                                  whole fruit juices from these fruits are all good sources.

                                                  Include a number of cruciferous vegetables, such as
                                                  cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and Kohlrabi
                                                  which (high in fiber. Vitamin E is found in whole
                                                  grain cereals, nuts and beans.    

Dairy group                              Low fat milk is the best and calcium is very                                      Whole milk & milk products
                                                  good for smokers.    

1.   Make every effort to stop using all forms of tobacco and alcohol. This will reduce the burden on your lungs and reduce caloric intake through alcoholic drinks. (Try our Alcohol Calorie calculator)
2.   Exercise is a must. At least 30-40 minutes of preferably brisk exercise is advised.
3.  Eat better and eat less quantity. It takes a little effort to consciously make the right choices, and control how many calories you eat on a daily basis.
4.   Seek the help of a professional to guide you.
5.   A healthy life style can potentially alleviate the ill effects that smoking has caused.

By. V. Iyengar,
Online Dietitian

Contact our online dietitians for further information on dietary interventions in the prevention and management of cancer at

Begin Do A Health & Diet Assessment NOW!

Related articles: Top 10 Foods that may help prevent cancer
Men- It's Time To Address Your Stress
                             Male Menopause
                             Erectile Dysfunction
1.    (Znaor, A., et al., Independent and combined effects of tobacco smoking, chewing and alcohol drinking on the risk of oral, pharyngeal and esophageal cancers in Indian men. Int J Cancer, 2003. 105(5): p. 681-6)
2.    Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci.   2004 Oct-Dec; 46(4):269-281



User Comments

15 June, 2010 | Poonam Vaswani | Reply

Poonam Vaswani A lot of people depend upon multivitamin & mineral supplements as a means of protection against diseases, especially cancer. Many studies have been conducted to find out the role they play in preventing cancer. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence to show that supplements are a guarantee against disease. Infact, some studies have shown adverse effects on cancer. One such revealed that beta carotene supplementation may increase the incidence of cancer mortality among smokers, whereas vitamin E supplementation had no effect.
The best bet would be to
1) Eat a well balanced diet
2) Make lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, increasing physical activity and reducing alcohol and stress.
3)Get regular screening tests
4) Talk to your physician about your current health status.
These will go a long way in keeping you healthy.

28 July, 2009 | Vijayalakshmi | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Hello Mr Ajay I do understand your anxiety. Well, the most common cause of lung cancer is long-term exposure to tobacco smoke but it also affects nonsmokers ( in fact they account for as many as 15% of cases) and is usually due to a combination of reasons .Main factors are genetic exposure to fog ,smog, air pollution including second hand smoke. It also may affect people who work in industries dealing with asbestos, cement or hazardous chemicals .Different viruses are also known to contribute. So, yes it is advisable that you undergo regular screening as told by the doctor and have a good diet & life style combination.
Vijayalakshmi Iyengar

22 June, 2009 | Ajai K | Reply

Ajai K My dad has had lung cancer for 2 years because he smoked 1-2 packs a day. I don't smoke or drink, I eat healthy and I exercise.
When I had my last annual medical screening at work, the doc told me I could still get some type of cancer.
Is that true?

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Tags: Cancer, Cancer Diet & Nutrition, Cancer Prevention, General health, Lung Cancer, Men's Health, Nutrition, Oral Cancer, Smoking


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