According to the American Cancer Institute for Cancer Research the following 10 diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of developing 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 like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke.

These ten cancer prevention recommendations are drawn from the AICR/WCRF Third Expert Report. Learn more about the process and how these findings were reached.

  1. Be a healthy weight
    • Keep your weight within the healthy range and avoid weight gain in adult life
    • 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.
  2. Be physically active
    • Be physically active as part of everyday life—walk more and sit less
    • Physical activity in any form helps to lower cancer risk. Aim to build more activity, like brisk walking or chair exercises at your desk, 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.
  3. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans
    • Make whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans a major part of your usual daily diet.
    • 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. 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.
  4. Limit consumption of “fast foods” and other processed foods high in fat, starches, or sugars
    • Limiting these foods helps control calorie intake and maintain a healthy weight
  5. Limit consumption of red and processed meat
    • Eat no more than moderate amounts — 12 to 18 ounces (cooked) per week — of red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb.
    • When it comes to processed meat (ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, sausages) there is evidence that cancer risk begins to increase with even very low consumption.
  6. Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
    • Drink mostly water and unsweetened drinks
    •  There is strong evidence that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes weight gain, overweight, and obesity, linked to 12 cancers.
  7. Limit alcohol consumption
    • For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.
    • 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.
  8. Do not use supplements for cancer prevention
    • Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone.
    • 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.
  9. For mothers: breastfeed your baby, if you can
    • Breastfeeding is good for both mother and baby.
    • There is strong evidence that breastfeeding helps protect against breast cancer in the mother.
    • 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.
  10. After a cancer diagnosis: follow the above recommendations, if you can
    • Check with your health professional about what is right for you
    • 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.

Thanks to the AICR for these helpful steps