Learn more about foods that can help prevent cancer

We often associate the benefits of healthy eating with guarding against conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. But did you know some foods also may help lower your risk of cancer?

More than 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute. Roughly 40 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

Here are some of the best foods to help prevent cancer, as well as a few you’ll want to avoid.

Blueberries and Goji Berries

Blueberries and goji berries are two key foods that can lower your risk of cancer because they contain high amounts of antioxidants and other vitamins, like vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Antioxidants are important nutrients in cancer-fighting foods. They help protect the body against free radicals, which can damage and kill cells. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, people who eat more fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants, have a lower risk of some cancers.

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Green Tea

Green tea contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. According to Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, They are especially important because the body can easily absorb them.


Turmeric is a spice that contains the active ingredient curcumin, which is being studied for use in fighting many types of cancer. For example, some research has shown that curcumin can contain tumor size and help prevent certain cancers, like breast and colon cancers. A 2016 study indicated that turmeric can reduce “oxidative stress” on the cells and help destroy breast cancer cells. Turmeric is often used in curries and stir fries, and pairs well with other dishes.


Ginger is a root herb with anti-inflammatory properties. Reducing inflammation, a known precursor to cancer and other chronic diseases may be key to lowering your risk of cancer, according to a study published in Nutrition and Cancer. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine concluded that 6-shogaol, the active chemical in ginger, has potent anti-cancer activities.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale are high in antioxidants, carotenoids, and vitamin C, and contain certain enzymes that help protect cell DNA. A recent study from the World Journal of Gastroenterology determined that eating leafy green vegetables can help lower the risk of colorectal cancer. The International Journal of Epidemiology recently published a study linking the consumption of greens to reduced risks of cancer and early death.

Foods to Avoid

On the flip side, the American Cancer Society advises that you avoid these foods to help lower your risk of cancer:

  • Overly processed foods with additives and preservatives
  • Foods high in added sugar, including sugary drinks
  • Processed meats

To learn more or make an appointment with one of our cancer experts, call the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at 412-647-2811.

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.