A ten-point ‘blueprint to beat cancer can cut the chance of getting the disease by up to 40 per cent, experts say.
A major review found we should drink mostly water, limiting sugary beverages and avoiding alcohol altogether for the best chance of evading the disease.
In the biggest analysis of its kind, experts warn junk food, ready meals and red meat should be eaten only in moderation in favour of a diet that is rich in wholegrains, fruit and vegetables.
The World Cancer Research Fund’s recommendations are based on analysis of research involving 51million people and 17 types of cancer.
With obesity set to overtake smoking as the biggest cause of cancer in the next 20 years, health experts say we are facing a global timebomb.
Dr Giota Mitrou, from the fund, said there was overwhelming evidence of obesity fuelling rising cancer levels.
‘This is very robust evidence of what affects and doesn’t affect cancer risk,’ she told the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna. ‘What the report shows is very strong evidence for a package of lifestyle behaviours as a route for cancer prevention.
‘And recommendations for [being] overweight and obesity form a major part of it.
‘Individuals need to follow as many of these recommendations as possible, not just some of them.’
Cancer is responsible for about one in six deaths worldwide, with cases set to rise by 58 per cent by 2035 unless action is taken, they warned.
There are 12 types of cancer linked to obesity – liver, ovary, prostate, stomach, mouth and throat, bowel, breast, gall-bladder, kidney, oesophagus, pancreas and womb. Alcohol is strongly linked to six cancers including breast, bowel and stomach.
Researchers from Imperial College London led the analysis of decades of evidence to determine the simple lifestyle changes people can make to minimise risk.
As smoking and sun exposure are both well-known cancer risks, this data was not reviewed.
Scientists found key causes of cancer include regularly drinking sugar-sweetened drinks and eating junk food high in sugar, fat and starches, because of the associated weight gain. Processed foods and meat – such as ready meals and salami – are also high-risk because of carcinogenic chemicals involved in their preparation, the report said.
It recommend exercise, such as walking an hour a day, to help protect against bowel, breast and womb cancers. This also helps people maintain a healthy weight, reducing cancer risk further.
Professor Linda Bauld, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This report supports what we already know – the key to cutting cancer risk is through our way of life. Not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating and drinking healthily and getting more active all helps.
Steps to cut risk by 40%
1. Keep a healthy weight
2. Be physically active. – walk more, do gardening, household chores. Sit less and reduce screen time for TV, computers, phones and tablets
3. Eat five portions (400g) of fruit and veg a day, particularly green leafy vegetables like broccoli, okra, aubergine and root vegetables, different colour fruit as well as wholegrains and pulses such as beans and lentils
4. Cut town on of ‘fast foods’ and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars such as pre-prepared dishes, snacks, bakery foods, desserts and sweets
5. No more than 3 portions of red meat such as beef, pork and lamb, a week (350-500g). Eat little, if any, processed meat
6. Drink mostly water and unsweetened drinks, avoid fruit juice
7. Do not drink alcohol
8. Avoid dietary supplements – aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone.
9. For mothers: breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding is good for both mother and baby
10. Follow the above recommendations after cancer diagnosis too after checking with a health professional