Updated: Feb 4, 2019
According to the recent publication by the World Cancer Research Fund - Third Expert Report (2018): Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer (based upon strong evidence), there are ten ways you can protect yourself from cancer. 1. Be a healthy weight 2. Be physically active 3. Eat a diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and beans 4. Limit consumption of 'fast foods' and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars 5. Limit consumption of red and processed meat 6. Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks 7. Limit alcohol consumption 8. Do not use supplements for cancer prevention 9. For mothers: breastfeed your baby, if you can 10. After cancer diagnosis: follow all the above recommendations, if you can.
There is strong evidence that being obese or overweight is a cause of 12 different types of cancer: breast (in post-menopausal women), bowel, prostate (advanced only), kidney, mouth and throat, pancreatic, oesophageal (adenocarcinoma only), womb, ovarian, stomach (cardia only), liver and gallbladder.
Fat cells produce hormones such as oestrogen. Excess oestrogen can increase risk of cancers such as breast and womb by acting as tumour growth promoters. Insulin resistance in instances of diabetes or continued excess sugar consumption can cause increased production of growth hormones which in turn can act as tumour growth promoters. Inflammation in the body caused by excess weight is a seen as a major contributor to many different cancers. There is strong evidence that doing aerobic exercise and eating a diet rich in fibre can protect against weight gain. Exercising outside is also good for mental health.
The Government recommends at least 150 minutes activity per week. Over a third of men and half of women don't meet this target. Being active on a regular basis keeps weight under control, hormone levels balanced and lowers insulin resistance. Regular activity should be a combination of different types such as aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, running, swimming) - try to increase your heart rate so you are a little out of breath, resistance exercise where you should try lifting some weights or use your body weight as resistance. Try to incorporate some kind of exercise every day - you will feel much better for it even if its difficult at the start.
Diet plays a major role in reducing your risk of cancer in ways such as weigh control and nutrient intake. Try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Eat wholegrains such as wholemeal bread instead of white sliced, to ensure your fibre intake is high enough to move food quickly through the gut. Multi-coloured fruit and vegetables will give you a variety of nutrients - phytochemicals which protect cells from damage. There is evidence that fruit and vegetables intake can help prevent cancers of the mouth, throat and digestive tract.
For more information visit the World Cancer Research Fund website and follow the links to the recently published Third Expert Report.