Ovarian Cancer and its Dietary Links
Women are mostly always multitasking, overloaded with hectic work schedules and home responsibilities. This makes them not pay attention to their health complications and concerns. Hence predominantly many major diseases get ignored until they reach the advanced stage and start halting the whole life process.
Ovarian cancer is a fatal gynaecological cancer, which remains unnoticed, with some minor to no symptoms for a long time. Almost 3 out of 4 women are diagnosed in the advanced third or fourth stage. It is the 3rd most commonly detected cancer amongst Indian women. As per reports more than 700,000 women are “living within five years of an ovarian cancer diagnosis (GLOBCAN 2018). It is been predicted that by 2035 there will be a worldwide increase of 55% in incidence to 371,000 and an increase in deaths of 67% to 254,000 of ovarian cancer.
Who is more prone to develop ovarian cancer?
- Women with a first or second-degree relative with ovarian cancer
- Family history of breast or colorectal cancer
- Obese or overweight women
- In case of early menstruation or late menopause
- Elderly women above the age of 65
- History of estrogen or hormone therapy intake after menopause
- Women with a history of getting treated for any other cancer including uterine, colorectal, and breast cancer
- If never had any full-term pregnancy and have never breastfed
- If ever have undergone an infertility treatment for more than one year
- Having endometriosis
What are persistent salient body signals which need immediate attention?
- Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain, especially in the lower part
- The urgency to urinate and frequent urination
- Frequent bloating and feeling of fullness even after small meals
- Constipation or upset stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea, breathlessness and tiredness
- Pain during intercourse
- Severe back pain
Consistent gastrointestinal issues are a major indication, which is checked at the right time and can lead to early detection of ovarian cancer.
How diet and nutrition can affect ovarian cancer?
Social media is exploding with cancer-related superfoods, diets and tips. Out of these most are not supported by any scientific data and are unauthentic. So it is highly recommended that we should skip the hype on miracle diets to prevent ovarian cancer and focus on a nutrient-rich dietary pattern.
Virtual myths vs reality
Myth 1-Omit dairy products from the diet
Reality – Dairy products are rich in calcium and protein hence moderate amounts of low-fat dairy items like skimmed milk, low-fat paneer, cheese, curd and buttermilk can always be included in the diet.
Myth 2- Eat a high amount of soy and soy products
Reality- Soy contains a compound known as isoflavones which lower the risk of cancer. But this never means to include only soy products in the diet. A moderate intake is always a better choice over high fat saturated red meat products.
Myth 3- Eat only Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower
Reality- Eat a wide variety of vegetables including a cruciferous variety of vegetables. Don’t overindulge or skip any one type of food.
Myth 4- Green tea prevents ovarian cancer
Reality- Green tea is rich in antioxidants and it’s good for overall good health but still strong scientific supportive research data is not available which connects the risk preventive effect of green tea on any type of cancer.
What are the lifestyle suggestions to Reduce Ovarian Cancer risks?
Maintain healthy body weight
Excess weight brings more fatness and increased the amount of circulating estrogen that promotes the multiplication of ovary surface lining and leads to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of chronic diseases.
Eat a lot of fibre-rich foods
Eating an adequate amount of fibre-rich vegetables & fruits, whole grains, legumes, pulses and nuts may decrease the level of circulating estrogen concentrations. This also improves glycemic load and insulin sensitivity hence the development and spread of Ovarian cancer.
Reduce intake of table sugar and extra sweet foods
Immediately all simple sugar-rich food options should be replaced with complex carbohydrate-rich foods. For example, instead of refined flour maida, whole wheat atta should be preferred and used in food preparations.
Avoid too much intake of high-fat animal protein
Animal fat and meat increase estrogen activity and increase blood concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a polypeptide implicated in ovarian cancer.
Maintain adequate vitamin D levels in the body
Have a routine check on the body’s vitamin D level.
Choose foods low in calorie density
Replace high-calorie low nutrient foods with low-calorie nutrient-dense food options. For example instead of grabbing a burger/pizza/ doughnut as a snack go for brown bread sandwich/roasted nuts/salad/fruits
Eat a balanced diet including a variety of foods
Never eat more or restrict any particular food group. Eat everything in moderation.
Limit red meat consumption
This is to lower saturated fat intake
Omit or restrict alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking habit
Limit table salt intake as much as possible
Be more mobile
Do 30 minutes of physical activity daily fitting easily into my daily schedule
Take out time for self, family and loved ones to connect, talk and distress
Sleep adequate and whenever suitable go for a digital detox
A balanced lifestyle will help to build the strength to prevent and fight any kind of disease. This will also help improve the overall quality of life and survival rates in people with ovarian cancer. Dietary and lifestyle changes should always be a part of medical treatment but should never replace it. More awareness about ovarian cancer should be created among all populations. It is always wise to be vigilant about the body signals, complications, and symptoms and consult a medical team, including an oncologist and a dietitian, for early detection and specific dietary recommendations.
- Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2015;24(1):101-9