Last Updated: August 16, 2022

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by cells growing and replicating uncontrollably. Damage to DNA is central to the development of cancerous cells. No diet or supplement has been shown to cure cancer, but some diets and supplements may affect prognosis, symptoms, and treatment.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a collection of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell replication and growth.[1] Solid cancers form a harmful tumor from a specific type of tissue, while hematological (blood) cancers form from lymphatic and blood tissues.[2] As cancers grow, they become more malignant, and the most advanced cancers spread to other areas of the body in a process called metastasis. Some types of cancer can be treated with a high margin of success, while other cancers usually lead to death.[3]

How could diet affect cancer?

Epidemiological studies suggest that dietary patterns are a large contributor to the global cancer burden and are a key area to focus on for preventing cancer.[4] A number of diet intervention studies confirm the role of diet in cancer risk by looking at markers of cancer risk,[5] but few interventions have actually tested the effect of diet on preventing cancer.[6][7] The majority of dietary interventions focus on either preventing cancer recurrence, slowing progression, or managing the symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments.[8][9][10] Generally speaking, weight management through diet and antioxidant-rich diets are focal points in nutrition for cancer research.

Which supplements are the most studied for cancer?

Some examples of well-studied herbal supplements in the context of cancer are traditional Eastern herbal medicines, garlic, caffeine, guarana, spearmint and peppermint. A decades-old body of research also points to the use of cannabis and CBD for managing symptoms of cancer treatment. Vitamins and nutrients that have been thoroughly studied include vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin A and beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, and combinations of these vitamins. Supplements that may improve gut health symptoms caused by cancer treatment include glutamine, probiotics, ginger, short-chain fatty acids, proteolytic enzymes, kefir, honey, and propolis, among many others.

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