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Nutrition Guidelines to Help Reduce Risk of Gynecologic Cancers

You may know the basics for enhancing overall health and reducing the risk for many illnesses:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Limit high calorie foods and sugary drinks.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Consume moderate amounts of red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption.
  • Limit salt.

But did you know that eating specific types of food may play a role in helping to reduce the risk of some gynecological cancers, such as cervical, ovarian and endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus or uterine cancer)?

What should you eat to help reduce the risk for cervical cancer?

Most cervical cancer is caused by infection with a common sexually-transmitted virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV). It’s usually harmless, though in some cases it can cause cervical cancer. A study found that if a woman contracted HPV, eating one or more servings of certain vegetables daily could actually help her body eliminate the virus. Vegetables in the study included: 

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Kale and other greens
  • Papaya
  • Oranges
  • Sweet peppers
  • Tomatoes      

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What foods can help reduce risk for ovarian cancer?

If you need more evidence of the link between diet and specific types of cancer, take a look at these findings from a large research study among AARP members conducted by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Called the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, it found that:

  • Women with the highest total fat intake had a 28 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer compared with those with the lowest fat intake.
  • Animal fat posed a greater risk than plant-sourced fat.
  • A diet high in meat and fat increased the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 50 percent, while a diet high in fruits and vegetables did not.

In addition, obesity has been shown to play a role. Researchers estimate a six percent increase in ovarian cancer risk for every five point increase in body-mass index.

So, what should you eat to help maintain a healthy weight or lose weight? Include a wide variety of tasty, satisfying foods such as:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes such as peas, lentils, peanuts
  • Beans such as green beans, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.
  • Raw nuts
  • Fresh herbs
  • Olive oil
  • Fish
  • Poultry

Specific vegetables that may also help decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, according the American Institute of Cancer Research, include:

  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

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What are some nutritional tips to reduce risk factors for endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus or uterine cancer)?

Many studies have been conducted that show how diet — and especially excess weight — can affect the risk for endometrial cancer. In fact:

  • Obese women are two to three times more likely to get endometrial cancer.
  •  Women who are 50 pounds overweight are 10 times more likely to get endometrial cancer.

Specific nutritional guidelines, based on various studies, include:

  • Avoid sugary drinks, which can increase the risk of endometrial cancer by 78 percent.
  • Drink coffee, which may help lower the risk of endometrial cancer. 
  • Eat a high-fiber diet to provide some protection against endometrial cancer. 

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