Cancer has been demonized from the get-go, but it’s also a naturally occurring problem in the human body. It has been around since the start of multicellular life. Man is just fortunate that the body has cancer suppression mechanisms to prevent potentially cancerous cells from developing.

The body has different mechanisms to prevent cancer from happening. One of which is inducing apoptosis or programmed cell death. When the body detects unwanted mutations and abnormal behavior of some cells, apoptosis destroys them before they can even progress. But when these abnormal cells evade detection and apoptosis, they develop into cancer cells and make people sick.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2019, 1,752,735 new cancer cases were diagnosed, and 599,589 people died of cancer. In 2021, the American Cancer Society estimated around 1.9 million new cancer cases to be diagnosed and 608,571 people to die of cancer.

Cancer is undeniably a big issue in the country, so experts have been looking for ways to contain the problem and minimize its incidence. This led some to look into how diet can affect people’s cancer risk. A review by evolutionary biologists published on the World Economic Forum website examined how the risk of cancer is lowered by keeping the gut healthy.

According to scientists, microbes found in different foods can affect cancer risk by changing the ways the cells in the body interact with one another. Cancer-protective microbes like Lactobacillus pentosus, Lactobacillus gasseri and Bifidobacterium bifidum can live in the gut and promote cooperation among cells, thereby strengthening the body’s cancer defenses.

Other microbes, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, can stimulate cells to target tumors and suppress their growth and development. The biologists suggested that by increasing the cancer-preventing microbes in the gut, the risk of cancer could be cut down significantly. And the best way to do this is to follow a healthy diet.

The scientists explained that the healthy and beneficial microbes are found in fermented and plant-based diets, which include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and yogurt. Aside from having good nutritional value, the microbes in these foods can help improve the immune system’s ability to counter cancer growth. So to answer the question, yes, your diet affects your cancer risk. Experts say it’s up to you if you want to lower that risk by following a healthy diet.

Kimchi, a fermented vegetable
In photo: A plate of kimchi served as a side dish. Jess Lander, Creative Commons