Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer and Whole Foods Plant Based Diet
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37,000 people are diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer every year.  That’s more than 100 people per day. Only an estimated half of those diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer will be alive in five years.

Guess how many people die from oral cancer every single day.  24 (Source: American Cancer Foundation.)

Oral Cancer Prevention and a Plant Based DietGuess how many of those 24 people could have saved their lives by eating better and exercising.  8.

That’s nearly 3,000 people every year who could have lived longer had they only made a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes.

This article from the American Cancer Society’s Journal states, “Evidence suggests that one third of the more than 500,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States each year can be attributed to diet and physical activity habits, with another third due to cigarette smoking. Although genetic inheritance influences the risk of cancer, and cancer arises from genetic mutations in cells, most of the variation in cancer risk across populations and among individuals is due to factors that are not inherited. Behavioral factors such as smoking cigarettes, consuming foods along certain patterns of diet, and staying active across the lifespan can substantially affect one’s risk of developing cancer.”

Dietary Recommendations for the Prevention of Oral Cancer

Last week I was doing an externship at a rural dental clinic.  During some down time, I picked up a copy of the February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.  The article Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer really caught my eye.  My dad passed away from cancer when I was 17.  I’ve always been worried that someday I would end up with cancer too, so the prevention of cancer is something that interests me.

The authors concluded that swapping your regular American diet for a plant-based diet with more whole foods can go a long way in lowering your risk for oral cancer.  They state the following:

Evidence supports a recommendation of a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a whole-foods, plant-based diet, with limited consumption of meat, particularly processed meat. However, use of dietary supplements (including vitamins, minerals and other bioactive compounds) in the absence of deficiencies has not been shown to confer the same benefits as those of fruits and vegetables, and patients should not use them as a substitute for fruit and vegetable consumption.

The 2011 Cancer Prevention & Early Detection PDF Booklet from the American Cancer Society contains the following recommendations on page 17 that seem to echo the findings above.  The booklet includes these suggestions:

  • Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains.
  • Limit consumption of processed and red meats.
  • Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages, if you drink them. (Have no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men.)

In 2002, researchers looked at many of the different studies relating diet and oral cancer.  They published their results in this paper.  Here’s an excerpt of their findings:

On the basis of the findings from the listed studies, there is enough evidence to point to a preventive role of vegetable intake, including green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and yellow vegetables, total fruit intake, and citrus fruit intake in oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal cancer development. Yellow fruits are likely to be protective. Carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E are protective, most likely in combination with each other and other micronutrients. The role of vitamin A is not clear because of conflicting findings in the studies reviewed.

These three sources all seem to agree that foods from plant sources have a preventive effect on the development of oral cancer.  However, there are some foods that can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.

What Foods Increase the Risk of Oral Cancer?

Here’s another quote from the article Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer that I referenced above:

Researchers have found that consumption of salted meat, processed meat and animal fat increases the risk of developing oral cancer. The results of a study conducted by Peters and colleagues showed that high consumption of dairy products is a risk factor for head and neck squamous cell cancers.

Based on the study above, the following foods increase your risk of developing oral cancer:

  • Salted Meat
  • Processed Meat
  • Animal Fat
  • Dairy Products at a High Consumption Rate

Conclusion

In essence, foods that originate from plant sources help decrease your risk of oral cancer, and foods from animal sources increase your risk for developing oral cancer.

If your diet looks similar to foods below, you’re probably doing a good job of lowering your risk for developing oral cancer.

Plant Based Diet and Oral Cancer

If oral cancer can be prevented so easily, isn’t it worth it to make some subtle changes to your diet?

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about how your diet can affect your risk of developing oral cancer?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!