CANCER PREVENTION RECOMMENDATIONS
Next to not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Aim to be at the lower end of the healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) range.
Body fat doesn’t just sit there on our waists – it acts like a ‘hormone pump’ releasing insulin, estrogen and other hormones into the bloodstream, which can spur cancer growth. See Recommendations 2 and 3 for strategies for weight management.
Physical activity in any form helps to lower cancer risk. Aim to build more activity, like brisk walking, into your daily routine.
As well as helping us avoid weight gain, activity itself can help to prevent cancer. Studies show that regular activity can help to keep hormone levels in check, which is important because having high levels of some hormones can increase your cancer risk.
For maximum health benefits, scientists recommend that we aim for 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous, physical activity a week.
Emerging research is showing that extended periods of inactivity – sitting at a computer, watching tv, etc. – increase many indicators for cancer risk. Break up your day by getting up and walking around a few minutes every hour.
Basing our diets around plant foods (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans), which contain fiber and other nutrients, can reduce our risk of cancer.
For good health, AICR recommends that we base all of our meals on plant foods. When preparing a meal, aim to fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.
As well as containing vitamins and minerals, plant foods are good sources of substances called phytochemicals. These are biologically active compounds, which can help to protect cells in the body from damage that can lead to cancer.
Plant foods can also help us to maintain a healthy weight because many of them are lower in energy density (calories).
There is strong evidence that consuming "fast-foods" and a "Western-type" diet are causes of weight gain, overweight and obesity, which are linked to 12 cancers.
Glycemic load also increases risk for endometrial cancer.
The evidence that red meat (beef, pork and lamb) is a cause of colorectal cancer is convincing. Studies show, however, that we can consume modest amounts -- 12 to 18 ounces (cooked) per week -- without a measurable increase in colorectal cancer risk.
But when it comes to processed meat (ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, sausages) the evidence is just as convincing, and cancer risk begins to increase with even very low consumption.
This is why the expert panel advises limiting red meat and avoiding processed meat.
There is strong evidence that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes weight gain, overweight and obesity, linked to 12 cancers.
Sugar-sweetened beverages provide energy, but may not influence appetite in the same way as food does and can promote overconsumption of calories.
Previous research has shown that modest amounts of alcohol may have a protective effect against coronary heart disease.
But for cancer prevention, the evidence is clear and convincing: alcohol in any form is a potent carcinogen. It's linked to 6 different cancers. The best advice for those concerned about cancer is not to drink.
If you do choose to drink alcohol, however, limit your consumption to one drink for women and two for men per day.
For most people, it is possible to obtain adequate nutrition from a healthy diet that includes the right foods and drinks.
The panel doesn’t discourage the use of multivitamins or specific supplements for those sub-sections of the population who stand to benefit from them, such as women of childbearing age and the elderly. They simply caution against expecting any dietary supplement to lower cancer risk as well as a healthy diet can.
High-dose beta-carotene supplements have been linked to an increased risk for lung cancer in current and former smokers. It’s always best to discuss any dietary supplement with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
According to the expert report, breastfeeding benefits both mother and child.
There is strong evidence that breastfeeding helps protect against breast cancer in the mother. There are likely two reasons for this. First, breastfeeding lowers the levels of some cancer-related hormones in the mother’s body. Second, at the end of breastfeeding, the body gets rid of any cells in the breast that may have DNA damage.
In addition, babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight and obese. Overweight and obese children tend to remain overweight in adult life.
If you’re planning to breastfeed your baby, your doctor or certified lactation consultant will be able to provide more information and support.
Anyone who has received a diagnosis of cancer should receive specialized nutritional advice from an appropriately trained professional. Once treatment has been completed, if you are able to do so (and unless otherwise advised), aim to follow AICR’s cancer prevention recommendations for diet, physical activity and healthy weight maintenance.
For breast cancer survivors, there is persuasive evidence that nutritional factors and physical activity reliably predict important outcomes from breast cancer.
Not smoking and avoiding other exposure to tobacco and excess sun are also important in reducing cancer risk.
Following these Recommendations is likely to reduce intakes of salt, saturated and trans fats, which together will help prevent other non-communicable diseases.