The risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including how one is exposed to things that may cause the disease. The length and intensity of the exposure, the person's genetic makeup, and lifestyle - particularly with nutrition - can also be a factor.
Dr. Anait Levenson with the Cancer Institute at the University of Mississippi Medical Center says even though the World Health Organization has declared that processed and red meats can increase the risk of cancer, it doesn't mean you can't eat them. Using salt as an example, she explains how the risk of getting cancer is heightened by how much, and how often it is consumed.
"Prolonged damage initiated by salt can eventually cause a disruption in tissues, which then causes gastric cancer. That is one example of daily salt intake. But, you can't say that you can't have salt at all. It all depends on the quantity you are taking and the genotype of that particular person," Levenson says.
Levenson says eating habits can initiate epigenetic cancer. That's a type of cancer that can be caused by outside influences and not be inherited genetically. However, she says there are certain foods that can help prevent the disease as well.
"Red grapes, some blueberries. You've probably heard about cabbage. All of these vegetables and fruits do contain bioactive molecules, which are now known to reverse altered epigenetic events which can cause cancer," says Levenson.
Levenson says fruits and vegetables such as those are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer compounds - all which can be beneficial for cancer prevention.