Photo by Sean Hanrahan

A lecture on the causes of cancer attracted students to a healthy eating seminar in the Clyde P. Fisher science building on Friday.

The hour-long seminar included discussion on the myths about foods causing cancer, easy steps to stay healthy, ways to create a well-balanced diet when fighting cancer and real stories from survivor Ashley James, who battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has been healthy for three years. The talk was in partnership with Cal Poly’s Relay for Life event, one of the American Cancer Society’s largest community fundraisers.

Radiation oncologist, Dr. Sherri Marquez of Santa Maria Radiation Oncology Medical Center, spoke along with Cal Poly alumnus and nutritionist Jayme Young, giving what they both call ‘perspective.’

“Nutrition is only one component of the issue,” Young said. “There is no perfect diet, no perfect fruit or vegetable that prevents cancer.”

Young highlighted four important guidelines for the collegiate demographic: maintain a healthy weight, be active, have a healthy diet and limit alcohol consumption.

“I like to ask people to name the five food groups and see if they can do it,” Young said. “Not many people can name them without mixing some foods up.”

Young stressed the importance of being active and compared ‘usual’ activities to ‘intentional’ activities.

“Usual activities are the things that you do without really trying, like getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, the little movements which are technically exercise but don’t equate to anything substantial,” said Young. “Intentional activities include exercise like running, swimming, hiking.”

The difference is paramount when battling cancer to maintain a healthy immune system to avoid being at risk.

In 1999, Marquez was the recipient of the Resident of the Year award by the American Association for Women Radiologists. Marquez is committed to continued research and education, conducting regular speaking engagements and outreach to improve cancer care outcomes.

“One in eight women in this room will have breast cancer,” said Marquez, “and one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer at some point in their lives, more often skin cancers.”

Marquez walked the group through yellow, orange and red food groups, comprised of t-killer cells that are designed to attack and mutate particles in blood cells that are bad for you. Apricots and carrots are invaluable sources of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene, antioxidants and anti-cancer agents, she said.

“Blue and purple foods, like beets, blackberries and purple cabbage support connective tissue regeneration and are anti-inflammatory; they promote blood flow and reduce cholesterol,” Marquez said.

Marquez made the audience laugh several times in the hour-long seminar, but certainly when she said, “Eat your broccoli ladies … It improves hormonal balance.”

“I try to balance the intense issue of cancer with humor,” she said.  “I have to … That’s how I cope.”

James, who battled through five months of chemotherapy and almost a month of radiation, sought the help and expertise of Marquez and makes a conscious effort to fit in exercise in lieu of napping.

“I try to be active five days a week,” James said. “I feel like it sort of took away years, and now I’m trying to tip the scale. You only have one body and you deserve to give it your best shot.”

James is one of several organizers for the Relay for Life event at Cal Poly later in the spring.

“We have this great opportunity to celebrate cancer survivors,” Relay for Life organizers said at the seminar.

Relay for Life at Cal Poly takes place May 15-16. Teams can register now by going to

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