Surprising new statistics reveal that 41% of the British population are oblivious to the role that diet plays in the development of cancer - and even those with a family history of the disease are failing to consume potentially "cancer-preventing" compounds in their daily diet.
A new ComRes poll from Profbiotics has revealed that while the UK population take certain cancer prevention strategies seriously (with 52% regularly protecting their skin from sun damage, 31% doing regular exercise and 41% refraining from smoking to help keep cancer at bay), only a quarter adapt their diet in a bid to reduce their cancer risk.
Experts suggest that while a balanced diet may help reduce overall disease risk, it doesn't necessarily address the specifics of preventing individual cancers. However, research indicates that key "cancer-preventing" nutrients can be obtained from a selection of commonly available dietary ingredients, including:
- Tomatoes (containing the compound lycopene - which may be protective against breast, prostate and liver cancer)
Curcumin (a compound found in the spice turmeric, linked a reduction in bowel, breast, pancreatic and liver cancer)
Pomegranate (which has supportive health properties in the prostate gland)
Green tea (contains antioxidants linked to a reduction in bowel, prostate, pancreatic and liver cancer).
The survey demonstrates a worryingly low daily intake of these nutrients across the UK population - with just 8% of people consuming tomatoes, 6% drinking green tea, 2% consuming curcumin and just 1% eating pomegranate each day. The data shows no increase in awareness or consumption among those with a family history of cancer, who may be at an increased risk.
Oncology Dietitian Tara Whyand is keen to encourage greater consumption of these key nutrients, but admits that it can be difficult to obtain apparently optimal doses from whole foods alone. She comments "Low levels of the antioxidant lycopene in the blood have been associated with higher levels of breast cancer, while high intakes of lycopene (at least 10mg a day) have been associated with a 50% reduction in lethal prostate cancer cases compared to those consuming under 4mg a day. However, you would need to eat 6 cooked tomatoes each day to consume the equivalent 10mg lycopene, which is unrealistic for most people."
To help combat this issue a unique range of dietary supplements has been launched, containing evidence-based formulations designed to help reduce the risk of certain diseases. The supplements, called ProfBiotics, have been developed by medical and nutritional experts specifically to support the wellbeing of the bowel, prostate, breasts, pancreas and liver. They contain high levels of nutrients linked by research to the wellbeing of specific organs in the body -- including lycopene, curcumin, pomegranate, green tea, vitamin D, vitamin E, selenium, vitamin B1 and zinc.
Justin Stebbing, Professor of Cancer Medicine and Oncology at Imperial College London, is supportive of the initiative. He comments: "Any approach which may help reduce cancer risk utilising diet and appropriate nutrients is of huge potential value for individuals and society. The combinations used in these products are in line with the results of scientific research studying different tumour types and represent a new approach to tackling cancer incidence through diet and nutrient supplementation. The formulations may also have a role during and after cancer treatment for nutritional support, and to counter adverse effects of chemotherapies."