Dishing up on cancer

Is your diet carcinogenic?
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01 .Introduction


About one-third of cancers are estimated to be caused by diet, body weight and physical inactivity – all modifiable lifestyle choices. Keeping a healthy body weight and exercising for 30 minutes a day are pretty straightforward ways to offset cancer, but it can be hard to keep track of the latest advice regarding food, especially when apparently contradictory information floods the media from one week to the next.

In this article we take you through what’s known to increase the risk of cancer, what’s known to reduce the risk and those tricky ones in between – sometimes cause and sometimes prevent cancer.

For more information on General health, see Food and health.

What increases your risk of cancer?


Frying, toasting and baking some starchy foods to the point where they go dark brown can cause the formation of acrylamides, which have been found to cause cancer in animals – though not humans as yet. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an international agency that’s part of the World Health Organization, lists acrylamide as a class 2A carcinogen – that is, it’s probably carcinogenic to humans. The main culprits are potato chips and other fried and baked forms of potatoes, as well as toast and biscuits. When you cook these foods, keeping them light brown rather than dark or burnt can reduce acrylamide formation. It’s also found in coffee.


It’s popularly believed that sugar feeds cancer. Therefore, proponents argue, eliminating all refined sugars and other sources of sugar and carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, fruit and sweet foods and drinks can prevent or halt the progression of cancer. All cells, including cancer cells, use sugar for energy. But if they don’t get it from food, they get it from breaking down protein and fat, so starving yourself of sugar won’t help stop cancer. Furthermore, cancer sufferers need excellent nutrition to counteract the effects of treatment, and depriving yourself of entire food groups such as carbohydrates is counterproductive.

Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean a lot of sugar is okay. Emerging research suggests that excess insulin – which occurs with fast, high peaks of glucose in the bloodstream – can drive the growth of cancer cells. Also, excess sugar can lead to weight gain, and obesity is a risk factor for cancer. So it makes sense to eat a low glycaemic diet and to avoid the sugar peaks associated with excess insulin.

Artificial sweeteners, which had been shown to cause cancer in animals at extremely high doses, are considered safe for humans.

Red and processed meats

There’s convincing evidence that red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat) and processed meat (meats preserved by smoking, curing, salting or chemical preservatives, such as hot dogs, ham, bacon and salami) increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Experts from the World Cancer Research Fund recommend limiting red meat to less than 500 grams per week, and avoiding processed meats. They also recommend that children should not be given processed meats at all.


Salt and salted foods damage the lining of the stomach, and high-salt diets are linked with stomach cancer.


There is convincing evidence that alcohol, even in small amounts, increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and breast, as well as colorectal cancer in men. It may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer and liver cancer in women. Alcohol in mouthwash is also linked with oral cancer. In recognising the potential cardiovascular benefits of small amounts, authorities recommend limiting alcohol to less than one drink per day for women and two for men.

But it seems not all alcohol is created equal – see The Red Wine Paradox for more.

Myth busting: acidic foods and cancer

Some people maintain that eating acidic foods or foods that otherwise make the body more acidic enhance cancer cell growth and should thus be avoided in favour of ‘alkalinising’ foods.

Fact: The body’s acid-base balance is tightly regulated by the respiratory system and kidneys, and is virtually impossible to change – even a slight change in pH can be life-threatening .


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Computer user groups are usually organised geographically, the easiest way to meet other members. Groups typically meet once a month at a community centre or similar venue, although some of the larger, more established clubs have their own function rooms.

Some benefits:

  • Education – learning more about all the different aspects of computing.
  • Some run specialist workshops. The cost can be cheaper than courses provided by private training companies and is often tailored to the membership e.g. courses in Office applications such as Word or Excel, an introduction to making phone calls online using Skype, how to make greeting cards, digital photography or building a family tree.
  • Clubs charge different fees and costs can vary from $30 for short, introductory courses to $200 for longer, more advanced courses such as computer programming.
  • Some groups cater to particular interest groups (seniors, users of particular applications such as Adobe InDesign).
  • Some groups cater for particular platforms – such as Mac users and the Linux operating system.

User Groups PresentationDifferent levels of computing experience are supported. Members can meet each other, socialise and learn about a wide range of topics, everything from using an operating system to photo and video editing, design and publishing, productivity programs, music, media and more.

Some clubs have an online help service where members can log a computing problem and other members will help resolve the issue.

Computer user groups will also offer specific training services, and these can include guest speakers from a particular company or vendor, as well as expert members themselves leading workshops, which are a great way to expand your skills at very little cost. If you are an expert in a particular area, you can help out and share your knowledge with others too.

Some of the larger groups can provide other services as well, such as an email address, subsidised or even free dial-up internet access, as well as facilities such as meeting rooms and computers on the club premises.

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