Nutrition and Lung Cancer Prevention | American Lung Association

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Nutrition and Lung Cancer Prevention

Do certain foods cause lung cancer?

There is no evidence to show any one food causes lung cancer. There is some evidence that eating red meat, processed meat and drinking alcohol could raise your risk of lung cancer but more studies need to be done to know for sure.

Does sugar cause cancer?

Sugar does not cause lung cancer. Sugar feeds all of our cells, even the healthy ones, so it is not recommended that you avoid all carbohydrates and sugar. Your body needs carbohydrates to function. But, a diet high in sugar, can cause you to be overweight and/ or have high blood sugar levels. These conditions increase your risk of cancers like breast and colorectal cancer. They haven’t been linked specifically to lung cancer, but experts agree that it is best to eat a diet that helps you maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar level. There is research being done about the role of sugar in our body, like that of American Lung Association research grantee Jung-whan Kim, Ph.D.  At this point, experts recommend eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed sugar to reduce overall cancer risk and fight cancer.

Can certain foods prevent lung cancer?

There is some evidence that eating a plant-based diet high in fruits and vegetables, can lower your risk of developing lung cancer but more research needs to be done. It is hard to know exactly how many fruits and vegetables you may need to lower your risk but trying to make half of your plate fresh fruits and vegetables at meals is a good place to start. Although we don’t have strong evidence that eating this way will reduce lung cancer risk specifically, experts recommend you eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of developing other cancers and to provide your body with all of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

Should I eat foods high in antioxidants?

You should try to eat a reasonable amount of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, many of which are rich in antioxidants like berries, dark-green vegetables, oats and fish. Antioxidant supplements have not been shown to help prevent cancer and can sometimes be harmful to your health. High-dose antioxidant supplements may also interfere with lung cancer treatments, including radiation and certain chemotherapies.

Key takeaways:

  • Eat a varied diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in red and processed meats and processed sugar to help you maintain a healthy body weight and blood sugar levels.
  • Try to get your nutrients from your diet and not from supplements.
  • Don’t take beta-carotene if you smoke.
Talk to your doctors icon

Take Action

Sometimes finding the right diet that delivers proper nutrition during lung cancer treatment is a trial-and-error process. Talk to your doctor if you would like to see a registered dietitian nutritionist for nutritional guidance when you have lung cancer.


Content supported by an educational grant from Genentech.


    Page Last Updated: August 7, 2019

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