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  • Joanna Injore

Cancer prevention: can diet reduce your risk of cancer and its reoccurrence?

Diet can have a significant role in reducing your risk of cancer and lower the risk of cancer returning but what should you eat? In this article we will explore what you can include in your diet to lead to an overall healthier you!

Which advice should I follow?

I know there is a lot of diet and nutrition advice available everywhere you look but as a Specialist Cancer dietitian I always look to the research.


The World Cancer Research Fund, WCRF is a leading cancer prevention charity and produce recommendations on cancer prevention based on extensive research into the links between diet, lifestyle, and cancer. They collate all the evidence in a database kept at imperial College London in a project called Global Cancer Update Programme. New research is continuously being added to this so we know the WCRF recommendations will be based on the latest science.

What are the cancer prevention recommendations?


cancer prevention fruit and veg

Fruits and veg- Eat the rainbow!

Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day and try to include lots of different fruits and vegetables. The different colours of fruit and veg are due to the ‘phytochemicals’; natural bioactive compounds which gives the colour, taste and smell of these foods. These phytochemicals also have health benefits for us such a vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre and may have an anti-tumour forming effect.


And remember all types of fruit and vegetables count fresh, frozen, dried, and canned in water or natural juices.


Super wholegrains!

cancer prevention fibre

Wholegrain carbohydrates like bread, rice and pasta give a slow release of energy to help you feel fuller for longer, great source of B vitamins and packed with fibre. There is strong probable evidence that eating wholegrains protects against colorectal cancer in addition consuming fibre foods protects against weight gain, overweight and obesity You can read more about how to add fibre in your diet here


Plant-based proteins

Plant-based foods like beans, lentils, pulses, and beans are a good source of protein even if you don’t follow a vegetarian or plant-based diet. These foods are high in protein, fibre and vitamins and makes a good swap for meat/fish/chicken too. You could also try adding some of these to your usual meals or try add 1-2 meals a week with plant-protein as the main.

Cut back on processed and red meat

types of meat cancer prevention diet

Red meat can be part of a healthy diet but the WCRF suggest no more than 3 portions a week, this is because high consumption of red meat is linked to increased risk of bowel cancer.

Processed meat (like sausages, ham, bacon etc) is high in fat and salt and linked to some cancers so best to keep to occasionally only. (Want to learn more about processed meats? Read it here)


Limit high calorie, high sugar foods and drinks

High-calorie, high sugar foods like chocolate, sweets, cakes, biscuits, takeaway foods etc are not linked to cancer directly, but having too much of these foods can lead to being a higher weight which is linked to cancer. So only enjoy these occasionally. (Remember sugar does not cause cancer!)

Limit alcohol

limit alcohol for cancer prevention

The WCRF suggests limiting alcohol as it is linked to increased risk of a few different cancers. I have written another blog about this here. Alcohol can be tricky to limit so you choose to have a drink try to keep it to low amounts and have alcoholic free days!


What’s the verdict on supplements?

Vitamins and minerals are only actually needed very small amounts you should be able to get all your need from your diet. There are some circumstances when you need a vitamin supplement but always seek advice from you doctor or Dietitian if you think you need a supplement in your diet. For cancer prevention there is no evidence that supplements prevent cancer and high does can be harmful. If you need some more advice on supplement check out my other blog post

What about lifestyle- is there anything else you can do?

There are 2 key lifestyle recommendations suggested to reduce the risk of cancer:


Keep a healthy weight

Keeping your weight stable can reduce your risk of developing some cancers. Taking small steps to improve your diet and increase your activity can help to achieve a healthy weight.


Keep active

Aim for 150 minutes activity every week, you can break this down into smaller chunks so it can fit into your daily life.


Remember this doesn’t have to be running or at the gym, gardening, walking, dancing!  It all counts just trying to keep moving during the day!

I will cover this in another blog soon so watch this space!


After active treatment it is suggested to aim to follow these guidelines to prevent cancer reoccurrence where possible. These recommendations also fits in the guidelines to reduce to risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease too.

You may find your diet has changed after cancer treatment and it may be more challenging to meet these guidelines, which is where working with a cancer dietitian can help.


If you want to learn more about how I can help you get in touch!


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