Cancer and food: advice from a dietician (1/2)

Published 12 Jul 2019 • Updated 23 Jul 2019 • By Louise Bollecker

Read our interview with Elisa Cloteau, dietician and nutritionist at Espace Mieux Manger in Pornichet, France, to better understand the interactions between cancer and food.

Cancer and food: advice from a dietician (1/2)

Hello Elisa, is it possible to prevent cancer with a certain diet?

Although people who eat poorly often develop cancer, cancer can affect both people who eat very healthy food and those who consume mainly junk food. In addition to diet, many other factors play a role in the development of cancer, such as the ability to cope with stress, lifestyle (sleep, smoking, alcohol, pollution...) and genetic predisposition.

Nevertheless, it is important to have a balanced diet and to eat as little processed food as possible. Overweight and obesity are also risk factors, particularly for pancreatic cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer and esophageal cancer.

Are there any foods that directly promote the development of cancer?

I think it is clear that alcohol consumption is involved in the development of cancer, but repeating it can't hurt.

According to the WHO, there is a link between intestinal cancer and meat consumption. Several studies also suggest that there may be a link between the development of prostate and pancreatic cancer and meat consumption.

>> Read our article about alcohol consumption

The consumption of sugar and dairy products also plays a role in the development of cancer. Excessive consumption of animal fat is associated with colon cancer and rectal cancer. Salt and salt-rich foods are likely to be involved in the development of stomach cancer. The risk of developing lung cancer increases, especially among smokers and people exposed to asbestos, with the consumption of dietary supplements rich in beta-carotene. The same is true for stomach cancer.

What does this mean for us?

On the one hand, we should only eat a small amount of fat and/or red meat. We should also eat processed meat and sauces in moderation. In October 2015, IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) classified the consumption of meat products as carcinogenic and the consumption of red meat as a possible carcinogen.

Salt, fried products, sausages, smoked fish and canned foods should be consumed with caution.

Taking beta-carotene-based dietary supplements to prevent cancer makes no sense. Quite the contrary! For smokers, these dietary supplements are even associated with a risk of cancer. Food supplements should only be taken on the advice of a doctor or pharmacist.

What is the best diet?

Our diet must be healthy and balanced, with enough fruit and vegetables. A 13-year Swiss study of more than 70,000 people clearly showed that it is possible to increase life expectancy by eating five servings of vegetables and fruit per day. It should be noted that food supplements cannot replace a healthy diet.

>> The gluten-free, sugar-free and lactose-free diet as told by a Carenity member

Ideally, I recommend eating one serving of raw food per meal. It can be a salad for starters, fruit, a fruit salad or a juice. But even this recommendation cannot apply to everyone.

What are the alternatives to raw fruits and vegetables?

As a preface, it should be kept in mind that it is essential to adapt the amount and type of preparation to the individual. Some people suffer from constipation, while others suffer from diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome.

Steam cooking

Steam preserves water-soluble minerals. Steaming is therefore a good cooking method for vegetables and fruit.

Cooking with water

When making soups, you can cook vegetables in water. For the sick, it is advisable to drink only vegetable broth, which is low in fibre and rich in minerals. The vitamins also remain well preserved in the wok.

The grills

Grease that drips into embers during a barbecue produces substances that are harmful to health. If you take certain precautions and use grill plates, vertical grills, plancha grills, etc., you can still grill from time to time.

Any last words of advice to end this first interview?

What you must absolutely avoid is eating the same foods over and over again. Particularly sick people with little appetite  appreciate it when preparation methods change and meals are well presented.

Thank you very much to Elisa for answering our questions. You will find more information in our second interview. And what kind of diet do you have?

avatar Louise Bollecker

Author: Louise Bollecker, Community Manager France

Community Manager of Carenity in France, Louise is also editor-in-chief of the Health Magazine to provide articles, videos and testimonials that focus on patients' experiences and making their voices heard. With a... >> Learn more


on 15/07/2019

Thank you for sharing this. Personally, I don't eat any meat at all except for maybe if I am at someone's home and they have gone to the trouble of cooking for me. I would feel ungrateful if I didn't eat a meal someone had prepared but I never have meat in the house. I prefer vegetables and nuts :)

on 16/07/2019

I have breast cancer and I'm also a coeliac which can cause bowel cancer and other illnesses it also can cause diabetes I have no immunity at all I have to be on a gluten and wheat free diet there are some coeliacs that are just dairy free as well as sugar free it for means causes me to have lots of viruses  as I have no immunity at all and it is hereditary and I can pick up infections and I cant fight them off I have suffered with coeliac disease from birth until I was diagnosed when I was 49 it can also cause anorexia ,anaemia, etc but I have to have medication for it also ,it can cause brittle bones which I have now so I have been trying for children to get tested because when you are older it is very depressing when you cant eat the foods you enjoy and you have to eat different dietary food instead I do hope this helps with my answer 

robjmckinney • Ambassador
on 21/07/2019

No sure how relevant this advice is with cancer patients as weight loss is a big enemy. So it is very important to maintain your weight with whatever food you like or can keep down. If you lose more than 10% of your body weight during treatment they drag you to hospital and put you on a feeding tube, not nice. I was obese when I started treatment and lost 6 stone over six weeks during the cancer treatment. I was not forced to stay in hospital because I had a little room in my weight to play with. An American airman patient at the same time as me was fit etc. he ended up a long term stay in hospital. For all the time I was in cancer treatment I never met an overweight patient like myself, everyone was thin and in general suffered badly from treatment.

on 06/01/2020

Not sure if this is the right place to post this question ... I have had breast cancer (RS Mastectomy & RT, diagnosed at 48). The type was hormone-sensitive  (oestrogen+) and I took Tamoxifen for 5 years and Megestrol for 2 years. Regarding diet - I have heard that there is oestrogen in soya products. As I am dairy intolerant I am concerned that perhaps I should not be using soya milk as a replacement (for example I know HRT is not an option due to the oestrogen content). Can you advise? I am 56 and post-menopause (courtesy of the Tamoxifen!).

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