Eating healthy food not only makes us feel great, but it also reduces our risk of getting sick. Dr Joanna McMillan explains how a balance diet can do wonders when it comes to cancer prevention.
So many of our lives have been touched by cancer. It’s estimated that 128,000 new cases will be diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020 according to the Cancer Council of Australia.
In our latest series of interviews, Deborah chats with nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan about a range of dietary and health issues. In this clip she discusses skin cancer and exciting new research which shows that what we eat has a massive impact on our vulnerability to this type of disease.
“New evidence is suggesting that diet can influence our risk of getting skin cancer. We’ve been taught in Australia that the risk has to do with exposure to the sun but there are other factors – including the food we eat – that are at play,” Dr Joanna said.
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world – two to three times higher than Canada, the USA and UK according to the Cancer Council of Australia. Each year skin cancer accounts for 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers. Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and when it comes to women it’s the tenth most common cause of cancer death.
Many of us understand the importance of the ‘slip, slop, slap’ message – how wearing a hat, sun cream and a long sleeve top can reduce our risk of developing skin cancer – but Dr Joanna says that certain foods can also lessen the risk.
“When sun hits the skin it can cause damage to the cells. This process can go on to become cancer but there are particular vitamins – like Vitamin D – that are important when it comes to building the defense mechanisms of the skin,” she said.
Dr Joanna says you only have to look overseas to see the impact of diet when it comes to cancer prevention.
“The Mediterranean diet – with its rainbow of different coloured fruits and vegetables, with olive oil as the principle fat, along with nuts and seeds, with smaller amounts of lean meat and lots of seafood – is an immune-boosting kind of diet which allows the body to become more resistant to cancer,” she said.
Despite the cancer-prevention hype around ‘super foods’ like Brazilian acai berries and Tibetan goji berries, the Cancer Council of Australia says that in general, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will reduce the risk of the disease developing. This includes increasing the amount of vegetables, fruit and legumes in your diet and reducing the amount of processed meats (such as salami or ham) that you consume. It is also recommended to replace red meat with fish or chicken.