4 things to do

Other Health benefits

Fatique »
Depression »
Overweight »
Hypertension »
Heart Disease »
Diabetes »

EN     NL

Oct 2010 Unhealthy lifestyle and blood cancers


Much research has been done on blood cancer (leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma) and its medical treatments. Scientific observations related to what causes this disease, and what can be done in order to prevent it, are still occasional. However, several recent studies hint at various connections between lifestyle factors and these types of cancer. It has been shown that animal foods, processed and smoked fish and meat, smoking, and alcohol consumption are factors that may trigger leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Moreover, in a newly published study it has been shown that diet-induced obesity is able to accelerate development of leukemia [6].

Modern diet, characterized with high fat and high animal protein intake and low on fibrous foods, represents a deleterious component of Western lifestyle. Adopting a more plant-based diet, together with other protective factors, may be advisable as a way to help prevent blood cancer incidence (and other Western ‘diseases of affluence’).


Main text:

Age, weak immune system, family history, viral infections, exposure to chemicals (especially herbicides and pesticides), and radiation are thought to be potential causal factors for blood cancer. More and more studies show that lifestyle may cause an even faster multiplication of blood cancer cells.


Remarkable results from the China Study, probably the most comprehensive study on nutrition, have shown that proteins from meat and dairy products are linked to increased rates of childhood and adult leukemia, besides other cancers [1]. Next, recent studies have shown that even in a population with a moderate diet, children who eat cured meat (like bacon and hot dogs) more than once a week have a 74% higher risk of leukemia than those who rarely ate these foods. On the other hand, children who often ate vegetables and tofu had about half the leukemia risk compared to others who ate fewer vegetables and soy [2].


Evaluation of the impacts of main lifestyle factors on a survival rate of non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients has shown that patients with a long history of smoking had a 76% higher risk of death compared to never smokers; patients who consumed more than 43 grams of alcohol per week had a 55% higher risk of death compared to nondrinkers; and obese patients had a 32% higher risk of death compared to patients with normal weight for their height [3]. Similar effects of smoking have been detected also in patients with acute leukemia [4].


High fat diet and obesity have been associated with an increased incidence of many cancers, including leukemia [5]. The first study demonstrating that obesity can directly accelerate the progression of acute lymphoblastic leukemia has been conducted at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. In this study, a group of researches wanted to determine if obesity causes the increased incidence of leukemia and not some other associated exposure. Using an experimental model researchers found the positive correlation between obesity and the risk of leukemia, and suggested that this observation is actually due to obesity and not some associated genetic, socio-economic or environmental factor. Moreover, these data imply that some hormone (leptin, insulin, interleukin-6) or other factor in overweight individuals, perhaps produced by fat tissue itself, may signal leukemia cells to grow and divide [6].


Overall, a plant-based diet which is rich in nutrients, tobacco cessation, and moderating alcohol consumption provide a favorable background in the fight against development and progression of blood cancers.  


By: Svetlana Obradovic and Luuk Simons


[1] Campbell, T. C., and T. M. Campbell (2006). The China Study. Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health. Benbella Books, Dallas, Texas


[2] Liu, C. Y., Y. H. Hsu, M. T. Wu, et. al. (2009). Cured meat, vegetables, and bean-curd foods in relation to childhood acute leukemia risk: A population based case-control study. BMC Cancer 9, pp.1-9.



[3] Geyer, S. M., L. M. Morton, T. M. Habermann, C. Allmer, S. Davis et.al. (2010). Smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and overall survival from non-Hodgkin lymphoma: a population-based study. Cancer 116, pp. 2993-00.



[4] Ehlers, S. L., D. A. Gastineau, C. A. Patten, P. A. Decker, S. M. Rausch et. al. (2010). The impact of smoking on outcomes among patients undergoing hematopoietic SCT for the treatment of acute leukemia. Bone Marrow Transplatantion



[5] Landgren, O., S. V. Rajkumar, R. M. Pfeiffer, R. A. Kyle et. al. (2010). Obesity is associated with an increased risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance among black and white woman. Blood 116 pp. 1056-59.



[6] Yun, J. P., J. W. Behan, N. Heisterkamp, A. Butturini et.al. (2010). Diet-Induced Obesity Accelerates Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Progression in Two Murine Models. Cancer Prev Res; 3 pp. 1259–64.



News archive »

Member login


Gourmet cooking for vibrant health

Really healthy cooking can also be really tasty. Many Asians have cooked healthily for centuries.

Read more »


Cancer Health Coach does not provide medical advice. We provide health information. Consult your care providers.