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AARP Bulletin

Foods That Help Prevent Cancer

The right combination of foods can protect you against cancer

What the Science Says

En español | Researchers say about a third of all cancers could be prevented if we maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet and exercise. And emerging science is telling us more and more about what combination of foods appears to offer the most protection against cancer.

Renée Comet


Fruits such as strawberries and blueberries help protect against mouth and neck cancers. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which can protect cells from damage, reports the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Renée Comet


Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which helps prevent prostate cancer. Cooked tomatoes — in tomato sauce and paste—and small amounts of fat, such as olive oil, improve lycopene absorption and enhance its protective benefits.

Renée Comet

Good Grains

Whole grain foods reduce your risk of colon cancer. Studies show that getting your fiber from whole grains rather than fruits and vegetables appears to be more protective. Check ingredients on the label and buy 100 percent whole wheat breads. Other good grain sources: brown rice, whole wheat pastas, oatmeal and quinoa.

Renée Comet

Butternut Squash

Red-orange fruits and vegetables, such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe, are rich in beta-carotene, which helps protect against mouth cancers. It's best to get your beta-carotene from foods. One study showed that high doses of beta-carotene in supplements actually increased lung cancer risk.

Renée Comet


Coffee — both regular and decaf — appears to lower the risk of endometrial, prostate and colon cancers. One large study published this spring found that coffee drinkers lived longer than those who didn't drink coffee.

Renée Comet

Limit Grilled and Red Meats

Red meat, which includes pork, has been linked to colon and other cancers. Grilling meat over high heat, especially charring it, releases cancer-causing agents. Processed meats also are linked to several kinds of cancers.

Renée Comet

Go for Grilled Veggies

Unlike meat, vegetables can be safely cooked on the grill: Carcinogens are not formed when veggies are exposed to high heat. Grilled vegetables are a healthy, delicious way to increase plant-based foods in your diet.

Renée Comet

Fatty Fish

Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is a great source of healthy protein and fats. Replacing red or processed meats with healthy proteins such as those found in salmon is a great way to protect yourself from both cancer and heart disease.


Green Leafy Goodness

Kale, along with spinach, romaine lettuce and its other green leafy cousins, is an excellent source of fiber and nutrients such as lutein and flavonoids. These nutrients appear to protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, according to the American Institute of Cancer Research.

Renée Comet

A Colorful Plate

For the best anticancer diet, experts recommend filling two-thirds of your plate with "plant-based" foods — veggies, fruits, whole grains and beans. The easiest way to do this is to think colors. Your plate should have a rainbow of them. The more colors, the more nutrients, the healthier you. And the best thing: These are not just healthy foods; they're delicious, too.

American Institute for Cancer Research

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