Vegetarianism has the reputation of being a healthy diet because it is low in fat and high in vegetable products and fibre.
An increasing number of scientific studies are showing that a vegetarian diet can help to prevent cancer and can assist the body to recover from cancer when combined with chemo-therapy or radiation therapy.
A vegetarian diet is not an alternative to conventional forms of treatment.
It would be unwise to reject medical treatments that have been shown to work.
Only the irresponsible would recommend a cancer patient to reject conventional medical treatment.
What a vegetarian diet can do for a patient who is undergoing cancer treatment is to help their body cope with the side effects.
A diet high in natural fruit and vegetable juices will provide the body with important nutrients that help the natural healing process.
Patients who adopt a vegetarian diet often report an improvement in their general outlook and their attitude to the disease.
In part this may be because they are eating a nutrient rich diet.
But the psychological effect of switching to a vegetarian diet can be as important as the nutritional value.
Cancer patients suffer from a feeling of loss of control because their whole life becomes dominated by a complex regime of treatment that is in the hands of specialists.
When they change to a vegetarian diet they regain their sense of control over their own lives.
The effect of psychology on disease should never be underestimated.
It is well documented in the medical literature as the placebo effect.
Feeling better should not be dismissed in cancer treatment.
Vegetarianism will do not harm and it may do some good.
But it is in cancer prevention that the benefits of vegetarianism are most thoroughly documented.
A diet which contains many soya based products has been shown to be associated with a low risk of cancer.
Breast cancer in particular is very rare among women who eat a soy based diet.
Vegetarianism is the soy based diet par excellence.
Diets which are high in meat, especially red meat like beef, has been shown to be associated with a higher incidence of colon cancer.
Animal fat may also be associated with a higher level of breast cancer in younger women.
Dairy products may be associated with an elevated risk of ovarian cancer.
A vegetarian diet alone can never eliminate the risk of cancer because there are so many environmental and genetic factors involved.
But it can reduce the risk because it is high in fruit and vegetables that contain substances called flavonoids and other antioxidants that destroy the free radicals which can cause cancer.
Free radicals are molecules that damage the DNA of cells.
We are exposed to free radicals through pollution as well as diet so they are almost impossible to avoid.
But by eating a vegetarian diet that is rich in fruit in vegetables we can help our bodies to resist their effects.