Nutrition, in the light of new scientific discoveries, plays a fundamental role in the onset of cancer.



One of the main factors that predisposes to the development of cancer is chronic inflammation. There are many conditions that induce an inflammatory state: esophagitis, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, obesity, diabetes, but also an unbalanced diet. The maintenance of the inflammatory state increase the production of molecules that inhibit apoptosis (programmed cell death) and that stimulate angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels); consequently it can favor the development of a neoplasm.

An incorrect diet, in addition to contribute to increase inflammatory processes, can also affect the production of certain growth factors that stimulate cell proliferation.

Because cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth and chronic inflammation, it is evident that the best way to prevent and treat this pathology is to keep the levels of certain growth factors and the levels of inflammation low.

According to the National Cancer Institute of Milan and the World Cancer Research Foundation, there are some foods that are not the cause of cancer but, for the reasons listed above, could increase the risk of getting cancer. It is important to always keep in mind that cancer is a multifactorial disease so the risk of getting sick also depends on many other factors such as genetic predisposition.

But which foods are most at risk?

      • High glycemic index foods such as sugar, flours and foods prepared with refined white flours, sweets, some types of fruit, potatoes. These are foods that quickly increase blood sugar and insulin production by the pancreas. Insulin in an ormone that has the purpose of letting glucose in cells to be used as an energy source, but when it is released in large quantities it stimulates the production of growth hormone GH which in turn stimulates the production of IGF-1 growth factor, involved in some cell proliferation mechanisms. Those with high IGF-1 values have a higher risk of developing a neoplastic disease. Furthermore, insulin is responsible for the production of pro-inflammatory factors.
      • Red and preserved meats. These meats are rich in heme iron which in excessive doses acts as an oxidizing agent by increasing the levels of free radicals. Furthemore, they are rich in saturated and omega-6 series fatty acids with pro-inflammatory action.
      • Although milk and derivatives are an excellent source of calcium and proteins, they are also foods that hinder the proper functioning of insulin and increase IGF-1 levels.
      • Polyamines: putrescine, spermine, spermidine and agmatine are molecules which, in addition to stimulating cell proliferation, reduce the immune system, favor metastatic diffusion and angiogenesis. Food sources with a high content of polyamines are oranges, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, bananas, kiwis, tropical fruits and bivalve molluscs. They are also produced by intestinal bacteria following the rot of meat proteins.
      • Soy: contains phytoestrogens, i.e. vegetable substances that, due to their chemical structure, mimic the action of sex hormones and stimulating cell proliferation.
      • Salt and alcohol

Not only certain foods increase the risk of cancer but also environmental pollutants, pesticides used in agriculture, chemical additives added to canned foods and antibiotics used in farms:

      • Heavy metals are environmental pollutants especially present in drinking water and in some types of fish. Arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead, dioxin are substances with genotoxic power, that is they are able to induce modifications within the DNA and cause neoplastic transformation of the cell.
      • Chemical additives are substances that are added to foods, especially canned or in cans or tins, to increase their conservation, preserve them from microbial contamination and improve their flavor, appearance and consistency. To date, scientific research has shown that the vast majority of food additives are not correlated with the development of cancer and do not represent a danger to human health. However, nitrites and nitrates used as preservatives especially in meat and sausages are an exception: in themselves they are not carcinogenic but within our body they can undergo a series of modifications that convert them into nitrosamines which instead are certainly carcinogenic.
      • Pesticides are chemicals used in agriculture to make plants grow better and faster. Those to which we must pay more attention are glyphosate, malathion, diazinon, parathion and tetrachlorvinphos because they have been included by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in the group of substances likely and possibly carcinogenic to humans.
      • Antibiotics are drugs that can kill microorganisms. Their use in intensive farming has several purposes: to treat sick animals and prevent animals from getting sick. This system translates into a real abuse of antibiotics with the consequence that all these excess drugs reach our tables. The ingestion of an excessive amount of antibiotics, linked to the excessive consumption of farmed meat, risks making the drugs we use to treat us ineffective due to the antibiotic resistance (survival to drug treatment) that the bacteria have developed.

The cooking method we use also can affects the onset of cancer. Especially frying and grilling should be avoided:

      • During frying in oil, a series of complex chemical reactions take place which lead to the formation of harmful compounds. The most important of these is acrylamide, a substance recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a probable carcinogen for humans.
      • Grilling meat leads to the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (benzopyrene and anthracene) and nitrosamines which are compounds recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogenic to humans.

It is not only what we eat that affects cancer development but also how much we eat. The excessive caloric intake, in fact, increases the risk of developing various pathologies including oncological ones. The calorie restriction allows to live longer and with less physical damage.



Foods, just as they represent a cause of the disease, can at the same time be a strong aid in its prevention and treatment. Proper nutrition, in fact, helps to live better and reduce the risk of getting cancer.

The foods that should never be missing from our tables, as a source of essential nutrients for health, are:

      • Cereals and whole grains rich in fiber and low glycemic index (whole wheat, brown rice, spelled, barley, rye, khorasan wheat, millet, amaranth, oats, buckwheat)
      • Legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans) rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, with a low glycemic index.
      • Seasonal vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals and low glycemic index
      • Spices (turmeric, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, chili pepper, curry …) rich in phytochemicals
      • Aromatic herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano …) rich in phytochemicals
      • Seasonal fruit rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals
      • Green tea rich in phytochemicals
      • Water
      • Dried fruit rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals
      • Extra virgin olive oil rich in oleic acid and vitamins that give it antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
      • Seeds (chia, sesame, pumpkin, flax, hemp …) rich in omega-3 fatty acids, mineral salts and vitamins.
      • Non-farmed fish (cod, sea bass, sole, turbot, dogfish, perch, shadow, mackerel, sea bream, scorpion fish …) rich in high biological value proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, mineral salts and vitamins.