Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you manage your risk for many types of cancer.

Regional One Health Cancer Care surgical oncologist Dr. Evan Glazer says that doesn’t have to mean giving up everything you love, and it’s OK to have a treat now and then!

He recommends focusing on whole, natural foods while minimizing processed foods and added sugar, and striving to get regular exercise.

If you ask most people about their health priorities, preventing cancer is high on the list.

Regional One Health Cancer Care surgical oncologist Dr. Evan Glazer specializes in performing procedures to treat cancer…but he would always rather be able to tell patients they’re cancer-free and don’t need surgery.

“Prevention is the best cancer treatment,” Dr. Glazer said. “If cancer cannot be prevented, then doing everything possible to help treat the cancer is the next best thing. There are ways to reduce cancer risk, and a healthy diet is one of them. With that in mind, I’d like to clear up some myths that can cause people to feel overwhelmed or scared when talking about cancer.”

Myth: Avoid added sugar at all costs

There is a scientific basis for limiting added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup in our diet, Dr. Glazer said. Eating a lot of added sugar is linked to inflammation. Inflammation causes changes to our cells, which over time can cause changes to the DNA. With enough changes, cancer can eventually develop.

“But that isn’t the result of one event! Eating a candy bar won’t cause cancer, and avoiding sugar at all costs won’t stop cancer, unfortunately,” he said.

Dr. Evan Glazer says a balanced diet based on whole foods like lean meats, fruits and vegetables can help with cancer prevention – but it’s OK to have a treat now and then!

Instead, Dr. Glazer encourages people to focus on balance. Aim for most meals to be higher in lean protein, fruits and vegetables and lower in fat and carbohydrates. But if you want a treat now and then, that’s fine. Even better, add exercise to your healthy diet to really bring balance.

Myth: You need to buy expensive designer “superfoods”

“We hear a lot about nutritional powerhouses that fight disease, improve energy, manage weight, etc. Do they really exist? Yes – but maybe not how you think,” Dr. Glazer said. “To me, a “superfood” is simply a healthy food you enjoy and will eat regularly.”

For some people, it’s raspberries, blueberries or strawberries. Others choose green veggies like spinach or broccoli. Some people drink their superfood while others eat it raw.

In general, natural foods that are rich in color and help you feel satisfied without excess calories are “superfoods.” Your specific “superfood” is a personal choice.

Myth: Give up the drive-thru

Processed fast food and other grab-and-go options contain chemicals, and exposure to chemicals can raise cancer risk. Therefore, if you see lots of unfamiliar words in the ingredients list, it’s best to instead choose something with natural ingredients like diary, fruits, or vegetables. Incorporate lean meats also.

“However, the reality is we get busy and have to grab some meals on the go,” Dr. Glazer said. “There are also food deserts where fast food is the only option, and sometimes healthy food isn’t affordable or available.”

Find your own “superfood” by choosing a natural, brightly-colored food that you enjoy and will eat regularly. Good choices include berries and leafy green veggies.

He said it’s OK to have fast food occasionally, just balance it with whole, natural foods, and try to choose the healthiest option available. If you can, support programs in our community that help those in “healthy food deserts” access healthy food as well!

Myth: Choose either health or fun

“It’s not productive to tell people their favorite foods are off-limits, and I don’t agree with it,” Dr. Glazer said.

“My advice is to recognize that natural, nutrient-dense foods can lower cancer risk and processed foods with added sugar can raise cancer risk. Working within those guidelines, find the foods you enjoy, have access to, and will eat regularly…and don’t worry about the occasional treat!”

Diet and regular exercise aren’t punishments – they’re tools to build a healthy life and potentially lower your risk of cancer and other serious diseases.

Learn more!

Evan Glazer, MD, FACS, is a surgical oncologist and national leader in the treatment of liver and pancreatic cancers. He sees patients at Regional One Health’s Main Campus, 880 Madison Ave., and East Campus, 6555 Quince Rd.

For more information, visit or call 901-515-HOPE (4673).

This is not meant to be advice for specific patients or about specific cancers. If you or your loved one has cancer, or has questions about your specific cancer risk, please talk to your primary care provider or cancer doctor to address your specific questions and needs.