Dr Beckie Lang

Although many factors are associated with an increased risk of cancer, it's estimated that 30 per cent of all cancers may be the result of our diet. Here are some tips to help you to reduce your risk.

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight

Obesity is associated with a marked increase in colorectal cancer, and some hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and endometrial cancers.

Eat more fruit and vegetables

At least five portions of fruit and veg a day can reduce the risk of many different types of cancer. The exact reason for this is unknown, but it may be related to their fibre content, vitamins and minerals, other plant chemicals such as flavonoids, or the combination of all these nutrients. Vitamin and mineral supplements may be a useful addition to the diet for some people, but they aren't a substitute for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Eat more fibre

On average, most people need to eat about 50 per cent more fibre than they currently do to meet the recommended intake of 18g per day. Fibre is important to increase stool weight, which enables waste to pass easily from the body. Cancer of the large bowel is the second most prevalent cancer in the UK, affecting one in eight people. By increasing stool weight by 25 per cent, the incidence of this disease could be reduced by up to 15 per cent in Britain.

Eat less fat

A high-fat diet is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. (See the advice on fat intake in the cardiovascular section).

Drink alcohol in moderation

Excessive intake of alcohol has been linked with an increased risk of cancer of the mouth, liver and throat. Limit your intake to no more than two to three units a day and try to have two or three alcohol free days each week..

Anti-cancer diets

There are a range of so called anti-cancer diets which claim to prevent or even cure cancer. Often these diets recommend excluding whole groups of foods and are not supported by scientific evidence. Before considering following any diet which claims to prevent or cure disease consult your GP or a Regsitered Dietitian.

This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks in September 2005.
First published in March 2001.

The basics
Bread, cereals and potatoes
Meat, fish, eggs and alternatives
Fruit and vegetables
Dietary requirements
Cardiovascular disease