RAZZle Dazzle in a Diet to Lower Cancer Risk


National Cancer Control Month: Pay Attention to Prevention
Written by Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, consulting dietitian for NRPC

April is National Cancer Control Month, a great time to stop and take stock of how well our diet and lifestyle stack up to recommendations for reducing cancer risk. Current projections say that by 2030, the number of new cancer cases in the United States will increase by 45 percent and cancer will become the nation’s leading cause of death.[1] That’s according to a new report, The State of Cancer Care in America, by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The good news is that the American Institute for Cancer Research[2] (AICR) and the American Cancer Society[3] (ACS) estimate that we can prevent about a third of our most common cancers through a healthy diet, weight management and regular physical activity.

Raspberries can play a role in four of the links through which diet can reduce cancer risk identified in AICR’s second expert report[2], Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer and its Continuous Update Project[5].

• Foods high in dietary fiber convincingly lower risk of colorectal cancer, according to the continuous update report from AICR[5]. Analysis in the report links each 10 grams of dietary fiber with a 10 percent lower risk of this common cancer. One cup of red raspberries contains 9 grams of dietary fiber. That’s a great start to the general health target set by the Institute of Medicine, which is at least 21 to 25 grams daily for women and 30 to 38 grams daily for men[6].

• Foods high in vitamin C probably reduce risk of cancer of the esophagus, according to the AICR report[2]. Vitamin C could provide this protection by protecting DNA as an antioxidant, inhibiting formation of carcinogens and stimulating the immune system[2]. Red raspberries qualify as an excellent source of vitamin C, since each cup provides 60 percent of vitamin C’s Daily Value.

• Fruits as a whole probably decrease risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung and stomach, according to the AICR report[2]. While many fruits supply vitamin C, AICR and ACS say that fruits also contain a complex mixture of phytochemicals (plant compounds also referred to as phytonutrients) that may work together in pathways that lower cancer risk.[2,3] For example, in cell and animal studies,[7] red raspberry extracts, as well as compounds such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid and urolithins that form from it, decrease damage to DNA that can lead to cancer; inhibit carcinogen-activating enzymes; influence expression of genes involved with inflammation; and decrease growth of several types of cancer cells in the laboratory. Research is ongoing, though much more work remains before scientists can understand what these emerging findings mean in humans.

• Foods that are low in calorie density are recommended as a strategy to help reach and maintain a healthy weight.[2,3] Obesity is now linked to greater risk of at least eight different cancers.[2,3,4] Calorie density refers to how concentrated calories are compared to portion size. The AICR expert report refers to studies showing that foods low in calorie density as replacement for foods that are concentrated in calories (such as processed foods high in fat or sugar) probably protect against weight gain and overweight. A one-cup serving (140 grams) of unsweetened frozen red raspberries contains 80 calories. Foods low in calorie density are considered those with no more than 125 calories per 100 grams,[2] and unsweetened red raspberries fall well within that limit.

The complete AICR recommendations to reduce cancer risk[2] are as follows:

1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.

2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.

3. Avoid sugary drinks, and limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, low in fiber or high in fat).

4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.

5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.

6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day.

7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).

8. Do not rely on supplements to protect against cancer

9. It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods.

10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.

And always remember – do not smoke or chew tobacco.

(Reprinted with permission, American Institute for Cancer Research – www.aicr.org)

It’s good news that evidence is growing stronger suggesting that lifestyle choices can help reduce cancer risk. The challenge for each of us is to find ways to meet recommendations to lower risk not as a “diet” that we go on and off, but as part of a long-term lifestyle. That means we need to focus on making healthful eating practical and enjoyable…and that may be yet another role frozen red raspberries can play in our plans, as a good-for-you food that is convenient and delicious.


(1) The State of Cancer Care in America, 2014 : A Report by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Journal of Oncology Practice. Published online before print March 10, 2014, doi: 10.1200/JOP.2014.001386 LINK

(2) Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund Expert Report. Washington DC:AICR, 2007. LINK

(3) American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition & Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. CA: Cancer J Clin. 2012; 62:30-67 LINK

(4) The AICR/WCRF expert report’s Continuous Update Project includes updated systematic literature review and updated conclusions based on this analysis. LINK

(5) World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Report. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer. 2011. LINK

(6) Dietary Reference Intakes: Recommended Intakes for Individuals. NAS. IOM. Food and NutritionBoard. LINK

(7) God J, Tate PL, and Larcom LL. Red raspberries have antioxidant effects that play a minor role in the killing of stomach and colon cancer cells. Nutr Res, 2010; 30(11):777-82. LINK

Seeram NP, Adams LS, Zhang Y, et al. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. J Agric Food Chem. 2006; 54(25):9329-39. LINK