Cancer cases and deaths preventable with charity diet recommendations

2 November 2016

Cancer Prevention Recommendations set by World Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute of Cancer Research lower the risk of getting or dying from a number of cancers - new systematic review presented at the World Cancer Congress has shown.

This research reviewed 22 large studies that scored people’s overall diets by how closely they adhered to the charity’s 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations, which include avoiding high calorie foods and alcohol as well as maintaining a healthy weight. Those who had diets that adhered more closely to the recommendations had a reduced risk of developing cancer, especially breast cancer, and were also less likely to die from cancer.

The research looked at overall dietary patterns, rather than separate components of a diet such as a particular food item or nutrient because people eat combinations of different foods.

Dr Panagiota Mitrou, Director of Research Funding at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

“This research demonstrates how important our recommendations are for cancer prevention and survival.

“Conclusions like this support what we have been recommending for years and we hope that it will encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes.”

Dr Dora Romaguera, study scientist from CIBER-OBN (Spain) and Imperial College London (UK), said:

“Research that looks at the whole diet rather than individual components is incredibly important because it reflects how we eat food in our day to day life and gives a true reflection on what effect this has on our long-term health.”

Dr Jill Reedy, expert on dietary patterns research from the National Cancer Institute, explains:

“Dietary pattern studies like this can be very helpful in understanding the relationship of the overall diet to health outcomes. The scoring system used in this research could also be applied to the wider food system to examine the degree to which different places support the WCRF Cancer Prevention Recommendations.”


For more information, contact: Melanie Purnode on 020 7343 4273 or

Notes to editors:

About World Cancer Research Fund

For the past 25 years, World Cancer Research Fund has been the UK’s leading charity dedicated to the prevention of cancer through diet, weight and physical activity. By funding and supporting research, developing policy recommendations and providing health information, we have ensured that people can make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of developing a preventable cancer. As we look forward to our next 25 years, our scientific research ensures that we will continue to have the latest and most authoritative information at our fingertips, all underpinned by independent expert advice.

Our analysis of global research shows that a third of the most common cancers are preventable through a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity.

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About the research

This research was presented at the World Cancer Congress for the first time. It is still ongoing and currently unpublished.

The scoring system used in this study to measure how closely people followed most of World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute of Cancer Research’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations. A full list of them can be found below:

  1. Be a healthy weight
    Keep weight as low as possible within the healthy range
  2. Move more
    Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day, and sit less
  3. Avoid high calorie foods and sugary drinks
    Limit high calorie foods (particularly processed foods high in fat or added sugar, or low in fibre) and avoid sugary drinks
  4. Enjoy more grains, veg, fruit and beans
    Eat a wide variety of whole grains, vegetables, fruit and pulses such as beans
  5. Limit red meat and avoid processed meat
    Eat no more than 500g (cooked weight) a week of red meat such as beef, pork and lamb. Eat little, if any processed meat such as ham or bacon.
  6. For cancer prevention, don’t drink alcohol
    For cancer prevention it is best not to drink alcohol. If you do, limit alcoholic drinks and follow national guidelines
  7.  Eat less salt and avoid mouldy grains and cereals
    Limit your salt intake to less than 6g (2.4g sodium) a day by adding less salt and eating less food processed with salt. Avoid mouldy grains and cereals as they may be contaminated by aflatoxins.
  8. For cancer prevention, don’t rely on supplements
    Eat a healthy diet rather than relying on supplements to protect against cancer.
  9. If you can, breastfeed your baby
    If you can, breastfeed your baby for six months before adding other liquids and foods.
  10. Cancer Survivors should follow our recommendations (where possible)
    After cancer treatment, the best advice is to follow the Cancer Prevention Recommendations. Check with your health professional.

About the World Cancer Congress

The World Cancer Congress is run by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and takes place every two years in a different country, always hosted by a UICC member organisation. The conference is aligned with UICC's purpose statement of uniting the cancer community, to reduce the global cancer burden, to promote greater equity and to integrate cancer into the world's health and development agenda.

About the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)

UICC is the largest international cancer-fighting organisation, with over 1,000 member organisations across 160 countries representing the world's major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes, treatment centres and patient groups.The organisation is dedicated to taking the lead in convening, capacity building and advocacy initiatives that unite the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, promote greater equity, and integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.

UICC is dedicated to continuing to work with world leaders to increase their support for cancer control measures, and encourage accountability for the cancer commitments made in the UN Political Declaration on NCDs and the Sustainable Development Goals. UICC uses key convening opportunities like the World Cancer Leaders' Summit, World Cancer Congress and World Cancer Day for continued focus on:

  • Developing specific time-bound targets and indicators to measure the national implementation of policies and approaches to prevent and control cancer
  • Raising the priority accorded to cancer in the global health and development agenda
  • Promoting a global response to cancer

UICC and its multisectoral partners are committed to encouraging governments to look towards the implementation and scale-up of quality and sustainable programmes that address the global burden of cancer and other NCDs. UICC is also a founding member of the NCD Alliance, a global civil society network that now represents almost 2,000 organisations in 170 countries.

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