Linking Inflammation and Cancer- What You Need to Know

articles May 15, 2023

Though the link between inflammation and cancer was first discovered in the 19th century by German physician Rudolf Virchow, it wasn’t until recently that researchers began to really understand the correlation between cancer, chronic inflammation, and environmental factors like diet and lifestyle. Researchers now know that lifestyle factors such as toxin exposure, pro-inflammatory diets, and physical and psychological stress not only contribute to chronic inflammation in the body, but also increase one’s risk of developing cancer and many other conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  

Chronic inflammation, however, doesn’t just play a role in the formation of cancer. It can lead to cancer progression as well. This is why it’s so important to adopt an inflammation-fighting anti-cancer diet and lifestyle both during and after cancer treatment! I’ve previously written about the importance of making dietary and lifestyle changes when faced with cancer, so please be sure to read that post if you haven’t already.


How Chronic Inflammation Causes Cancer


Before looking at the connection between inflammation and cancer, let’s take a moment to discuss the difference between chronic and acute inflammation. The acute inflammatory response — unlike chronic inflammation that builds up in the body over time — is both normal and an important part of healing from injury and illness. It’s the body’s way of fighting infection, healing itself, and preventing further harm. 

Chronic (persistent) inflammation, on the other hand, is where things get dangerous. When the body is in a constant state of low-grade inflammation, cells can mutate and multiply — creating the perfect environment for cancer to develop and grow. Chronic inflammation has been linked to several stages of tumorigenesis, including cellular transformation (when normal cells become malignant and tumors can form); tumor promotion and proliferation, and tumor invasion, angiogenesis, and metastasis. 

Normally, our immune systems can recognize and remove tumor cells, preventing them from becoming cancerous. When there’s chronic inflammation, however, inflammatory cells in the body may promote the formation of cancer. 


A few of the things that contribute to chronic inflammation in the body include:

  • Inflammatory foods, beverages, and other environmental factors (like smoking, toxin exposure, and alcohol consumption).
  • Infectious agents such as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), and Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs), to name a few. 
  • Obesity and excess body fat
  • Autoimmune diseases.
  • Ongoing episodes of acute inflammation. 


So, what can we do to curb inflammation in the body and lower our cancer risk? Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle!


4 Ways to Curb Chronic Inflammation & Lower Cancer Risk


While inflammation isn’t completely avoidable (after all, acute inflammation is a “good” type of inflammation that plays an important role in protecting and healing the body after injury or illness), there are many steps we can take to prevent and reduce chronic inflammation in the body (the “bad” type of inflammation). 


Here are four steps you can take immediately to curb inflammation, reduce your cancer risk, and improve your overall health: 


 1. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods, beverages, and environmental toxins. This includes alcohol; fried foods; red, organ, and processed meats; refined carbohydrates (such as white flour and sugar); many sugar-sweetened beverages; and other environmental toxins found in water, air, soil, and personal care products.     

2. Replace pro-inflammatory foods with anti-inflammatory foods. Plant-based whole foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, whole grains, organic soybeans, green tea, and turmeric are all anti-inflammatory foods. Download my free guide to cancer-fighting foods to find a full list of recommendations.

3. Manage chronic stress. Because persistent psychological, physiological, and environmental stress are all associated with chronic inflammation and cancer, it’s important to manage stress with yoga, meditation, guided imagery, exercise, quality sleep, self-care, and other activities that bring you joy and peace of mind.

4. Exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Though obesity and excess body fat are also associated with chronic inflammation and cancer, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, managing stress, and exercising regularly can all help with maintaining a healthy weight and reducing chronic inflammation. Just one 20 minute-session of moderate-intensity exercise has anti-inflammatory effects on the body; brisk walking, using a treadmill, water aerobics, riding a bike, and playing tennis all count!


Chronic inflammation is incredibly dangerous to our health and well-being, there’s no question there. But the good news is that adopting an anti-cancer diet and lifestyle can combat inflammation in the body and reduce our risk of chronic diseases such as cancer. 


Adopting an Anti-Cancer Lifestyle is Achievable


It’s never too late to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. And as your biggest cheerleader in health, I’m here to help you do it. Book a free call today to learn more about how I can help!


Looking for 1:1 nutritional support as you navigate a cancer diagnosis or heal your body after treatment? Book a FREE phone consultation with me to learn how I can help!



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