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Lung Cancer Awareness MonthLung Cancer is the top 1 cause of death in the Philippines and is also the top 1 most frequent cancer in males and top 4 most frequent cancer in females as of 2020. Most of these cases are attributed to smoking and other dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors. This is why we are observing the Lung Cancer Awareness Month this November with the theme: “Kaalaman sa Kanser sa Baga Palawakin, Pag iwas at Lunas Ating Alamin”.

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer due to the presence of cancer-causing substances in the combustion of tobacco from cigarettes. This can be aggravated by eating carcinogenic foods from the diet and exposure to other carcinogens from the environment such as asbestos, silica fibers, diesel fumes, air pollution, chromium, nickel, cobalt, cadmium, arsenic, or ionizing radiation. Cancer risk can be reduced by limiting exposure from these substances. The following are 10 nutrition tips on dietary factors that may help reduce lung cancer risk:

1. Stop smoking or avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. Cigarette smoke contains cancer-promoting substances that may cause DNA damage and give rise to cancer cells that may grow uncontrollably and hinder the function of other organs in the body. Smoking cessation and avoidance of secondhand smoke is the number one preventive measure for current smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke.

2. Limit intake of red meats and processed meats. A 2020 study has shown that “high intake of red meat has been linked to increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer”. Red meat has been classified as probably carcinogenic and processed meat as carcinogenic. This is due to the release of harmful heterocyclic amines and polycyclic hydrocarbons when cooking processed meats. Thus, avoid or limit intake of processed meats and red meats. Lean poultry, fish, beans and legumes are healthier alternatives.

3. Limit intake of high-fat foods especially those high in saturated fat. Intake of high fat foods are associated with higher lung cancer risk. They include fried foods that are either prepared with saturated fats such as butter, lard or margarine. They are associated with promoting oxidative stress inside the body and contribute to overweight and obesity thus limiting intake may help reduce lung cancer risk.

4. Limit intake of refined grains. Refined grains are processed whole grains where the bran or germ is removed. This process also strips away fiber and other beneficial nutrients. Refined grains include white flour, white rice, white bread and some cereals, crackers, desserts and pastries. Excessive intake of refined grains may disrupt blood sugar balance and may promote cancer cell reproduction. Thus, limit intake of refined grains and switch to high fiber alternatives such as whole grain food items such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat bread.

5. Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and white meats. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and even phytochemicals that protect against DNA damage and fight against cancer. Fish and white meat also contain less saturated fat and heme iron as compared to red meat.

6. Eat more fish. Studies have shown that “consumption of 60 g or more of fish per day is associated with a 12% decrease in all-cause mortality related to lung cancer”. Fishes contain Omega 3 fatty acids and other healthy fats that may inhibit the growth of cancer cells and also protect against DNA damage. Thus, having at least 1 - 2 servings of fish per day can be an alternative to red meat and may help reduce the risk of lung cancer.

7. Eat vegetables rich in antioxidants. Vegetables that are rich in antioxidants include cruciferous and allium vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, garlic and onions. Vegetables that are high in carotenoids or Vitamin A also help reduce lung cancer risk by inhibiting cancer cell reproduction. They include foods with yellow to orange pigment such as eggs, butter, grains, carrots and squash.

8. Eat foods rich in fiber. Dietary fiber helps improve digestion and excretion of excess cholesterol and fat. Fiber rich food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain and legumes are also the ones rich in vitamins and minerals that protects against cell damage.

9. Eat foods rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Vitamin C and E are antioxidants that boost the immune system in detecting and killing cancer cells. They also protect against cell damage and prevent cancer cell development. Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits such as lemon and orange, Papaya, Guava, Pineapple and Guyabano. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, seeds and oils from plants such as Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Canola Oil and Corn Oil.

10. Maintain a healthy body weight. Overweight and obesity is associated with greater lung cancer risk because it leads to greater inflammation inside the body and promotes cell damage that may give rise to cancer cells. By maintaining a healthy weight, cancer as well as other non-communicable lifestyle diseases such as Hypertension and Diabetes can be prevented.

In general, living a healthy lifestyle with a balanced and varied diet combined with physical activity can help maintain good health and prevent lung cancer. For previous smokers, smoking cessation at an early age may still reverse the harmful effects of cigarette smoke to the body and lower the risk of developing lung cancer. When combined with healthy dietary practices as enumerated above, health can be restored and we can live a life with no illness or disability.

/AET

References:

• World Health Organization (2020). Cancer Country Profile: Philippines. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Date Accessed 02 November 2021. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/cancer/country-profiles/phl_en.pdf

• Bilano, V. L., Borja, M. P., Cruz, E. L., Tan, A. G., Mortera, L. L., & Reganit, P. F. (2015). Smoking-attributable burden of lung cancer in the Philippines. Tobacco control, 24(3), 263–268. https://doi.org/10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051082

• Department of Health. (2021). November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month Infographic. Healthy Pilipinas Faceboook Page. Date Accessed 02 November 2021. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=188583166789935&set=pb.100069147581661.-2207520000..

• Holle, M.N., Pravikoff, D. (2019). Lung Cancer: Dietary Factors and Nutritional Status. CINAHL Nursing Guide, EBSCO Publishing, (Quick Lesson - CEU), Database: Nursing Reference Center Plus. Retrieved from https://eds.p.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=8075fe4d-baed-4fe1-8eca-79378f1710be%40redis

• Fakhri, G., Al Assaad, M., & Tfayli, A. (2020). Association of various dietary habits and risk of lung cancer: an updated comprehensive literature review. Tumori Journal, 106(6), 445-456.

• The Mayo Clinic Diet (2021). Whole Grains vs. Regular Grains. What’s the Difference?. Date Accessed 02 November 2021. Retrieved from https://diet.mayoclinic.org/diet/eat/whole-grains-vs-regular-grains?xid=nl_MayoClinicDiet_20160421

• Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L., Carr, T.P. (2021). Advanced nutrition and human metabolism, 8th ed. Cengage Learning.