Ovarian cancer is caused by malignant, or cancerous, cells that develop on the ovaries. Common risk factors include family history of ovarian cancer, age, infertility, hormone treatments and obesity. Early detection is critical for best prognosis and many medical treatments are available. Though some risk factors cannot be controlled, others can, such as implementing healthy dietary lifestyle that promotes weight management. According to the American Cancer Society, a diet rich in certain healthy foods like fruits and vegetables may help prevent ovarian cancer.
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Vegetables contain a variety of helpful nutrients, including antioxidants that help reduce free radicals -- potentially cancer-causing cells in the body. A review published in the September 2013 issue of "Recent Patents on Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Drug Discovery," states that compounds in cruciferous vegetables called isothiocyanate can stop ovarian cancer cells from thriving. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, turnips and wasabi. and and Colorful vegetables such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, tomatoes and carrots are particularly encouraged as they contain high levels of antioxidants. If you have ovarian cancer, or are at risk, the American Cancer Society suggests five or more servings -- or 2.5 cups -- of vegetables and fruits daily for best results.
Whole grains are nutritious carbohydrate options that provide an array of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, such as antioxidants and dietary fiber. Whole grains also provide phytochemicals, which are plant-based nutrients known for their high content of helpful nutrients. According to Oregon State University, phytochemicals are associated with reduced ovarian cancer risk. Seek a variety of whole grains such as oats, barley, spelt, rye, brown rice and whole wheat, to reap broadest dietary benefits. Replace enriched grains, such as white flour and sugary cereals and desserts, with whole grain foods most often, as processed grains provide little nutritional value and are not correlated with cancer prevention.
Soy and Cancer
Soy foods are created from soy beans. According to accumulative studies published by the Ovarian Cancer National Institute diets rich in soy may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Foods rich in soy include soy beans, soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu, soy burgers, soy-based protein powders and soy nuts. Soy foods offer valuable amounts of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids -- essential fats the body cannot produce on its own. Incorporate soy-based foods into your diet regularly to reap maximum nutritional benefits. Diets rich in soy have been associated with increased risk for breast cancer, so if you are at heightened risk for breast cancer, talk with your doctor prior to incorporating soy into your dietary lifestyle for best results.
Foods To Avoid or Limit
There are some foods that can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer, and may reduce your ability to effectively fight cancer. A study in the 2004 "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" reports that lactose, the sugar in milk and dairy products, may increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer. The National Cancer Institute recommends that other foods that should be avoided or limited with ovarian cancer, and other forms of cancer, are foods high in fats and proteins along with red meat.
- American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts for Women
- Oregon State University: Lignans -- Phytochemicals
- Recent Patents on Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Drug Discovery: The Anti-Oxidant Properties of Isothiocyanates: A Review
- National Cancer Institute: Cruciferous Vegetables
- American Cancer Society: Summary of the ACS Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Milk and Lactose Intakes and Ovarian Cancer Risk in the Swedish Mammography Cohort
- National Cancer Institute: Risk Factors