Inflammation and Cancer

Most of us know when we have inflammation after some type of injury. This is an important part of the healing process and is called “acute” inflammation.  What we will discuss is labeled “chronic.” This is basically a constant, low-level state of inflammation that can damage cells and their DNA, resulting in higher risk for cancer and other diseases.

What can lead to chronic inflammation? Known causes are inactivity, being overweight, dietary choices, and some types of infections.  You can definitely make choices that affect the first three areas, so let’s outline those.

Physical activity

Besides burning extra calories so body fat won’t increase, more and more research suggests exercise, in and of itself, reduces inflammation. Remember, you are never too old to become more active. Start with increasing what you are doing now and increase to 30 minutes daily. This will help for cancer prevention. Check out America on the Move’s web site for ideas on getting more active.

Body Fat

Scientists used to believe body fat was just stored energy. Research now reveals fat tissue produces hormones that can trigger chronic inflammation. A healthy weight is a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 and is an easy calculation. Waist circumference is also important. Greater than 31.5” for women and 37” for men increases cancer risk. Select reasonable portions of healthy foods and beverages to slowly lose excess weight. Talk with your local dietitian if you need help selecting a healthy weight loss plan or try some of these ideas to cut calories.

Dietary Choices

Choosing a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes will provide you with lots of cancer fighting substances. Fill your plate with 2/3 or more of these plant-based foods. Limiting red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) to less than 18 ounces/week and avoiding processed meats also helps reduce chronic inflammation. Try substituting fish or vegetarian protein sources for red meat on most days and limit portion size to 1/3 or less of your meal.

So, the bottom line is- work on what you can control. Become more active, reduce excess body fat, and make healthier food selections.


It’s never too late to lower your cancer risk.

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