Fight Back: Essential Tips for Black Men to Prevent Cancer

how to prevent cancer

June marks Men’s Health Month, a crucial time to spotlight and educate on men’s health issues, particularly the alarming racial health disparity gap. Black men, in particular, suffer from significantly worse health outcomes compared to men of other races and ethnicities. Heart disease and cancer top the list as the leading causes of death for Black men, underscoring the urgent need for targeted awareness and preventive measures.

Cardiovascular disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Black people. Black men have higher rates of diagnosis and poorer control than other groups. Check out last month’s article Why Hypertension and Heart Disease Hits Black Americans Harder.

Cancer

Black men are more likely to get prostate and lung cancer and have more cancer fatalities than other ethnic groups. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men worldwide.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), 30–50% of all cancer cases are preventable by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising on a regular basis, and maintaining a healthy body weight have been linked to better overall health and better cancer outcomes. 

Five recommendations for a healthy diet include:

  1. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, lean animal or plant-based protein, and healthy fats. Plant foods should constitute a major part of the diet because they are low in fat and high in fiber. The WCRF recommends 30 g of fiber and five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Dietary fiber protects against colorectal cancer.
  2. Limit consumption of fast foods and other processed foods that are high in fat, added sugars, and sodium and low in fiber. These foods usually contain more energy and less micronutrients than unprocessed foods, which easily leads to weight gain and other negative health outcomes. 
  3. Limit consumption of red and processed meat (e.g., beef, pork, veal, lamb, goat, ham, bacon, salami, and sausages). Consumption should not exceed 350–500 g (cooked weight) per week. Fish, poultry, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, and dairy products are healthy sources of protein and micronutrients. 
  4. Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. High amounts of added sugar can cause weight gain, which increases the risk of many cancers. Thus, water and tea or coffee without added sugar should be preferred to maintain adequate hydration. 
  5. Limit alcohol consumption. There is evidence that shows the risk of certain cancers is highly dependent on drinking alcoholic drinks. The WCRF recommends not exceeding the recommended guidelines. Men should not drink more than two alcoholic drinks and women no more than one drink per day.

Be a Healthy Weight

There is very strong evidence that being overweight is a risk factor for cancer. A healthy weight range is a Body Mass Index of 18.5 – 24.9.  Consuming a nutritious diet and being physically active can help people maintain a healthy weight.

Be Physically Active

There is strong evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of several types of cancers by helping to maintain a normal weight and reducing body fat. Adults should do at least 150 min of moderate-intensity exercise (e.g., gardening, dancing, walking) or at least 75 min of vigorous training (e.g., jogging, aerobics, team sports) per week.

Foods that Fight Cancer

There is no single food that can protect you against cancer by itself. But research shows that a diet filled with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other plant foods helps lower the risk for many cancers. 

Here is a list of foods to include in your diet:

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli and cruciferous vegetables
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Dark leafy green vegetables (e.g., collards)
  • Flaxseed
  • Garlic
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Squash (Winter variety)
  • Strawberries
  • Tea
  • Tomatoes
  • Walnuts
  • Whole grains

Recipe Resources

Cancer-friendly recipes from the Urology Cancer Foundation electronic cookbook

 

Article contributor: Eric Meredith, MEd, MS. RDN, CDCES, CHES

To find out how you can get culturally inclusive, evidence-based nutrition counseling through your health insurance, please visit www.healthheroes.net.  Save the date to speak to Eric live this month during his “Ask the Dietitian” live webinar June 28th at 5p MST.  If you have a question that you would like addressed during the webinar, send them in advance to [email protected]

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