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Reducing your risk. Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

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. What Is Cancer?

011107 - WCRF UK’s. World cancer research fund

Our recommendations are based on the findings of our 2007 Expert Report, which contains the most comprehensive research available on cancer prevention. They outline the practical steps you can take to reduce your risk.

10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight

Convincing evidence shows that weight gain and obesity increases the risk of a number of cancers, including bowel and breast cancer.

Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity to help keep your risk lower.


2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day

There is strong evidence that physical activity protects against cancers including bowel and breast cancer. Being physically active is also key to maintaining a healthy weight.

Any type of activity counts – the more you do the better! Try to build some into your everyday life.


3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fibre, or high in fat)

Energy-dense foods are high in fats and/or sugars and can be low in nutrients. These foods increase the risk of obesity and therefore cancer. Sugary drinks, such as colas and fruit squashes can also contribute to weight gain. Fruit juices, even without added sugar, are likely to have a similar effect, so try not to drink them in large quantities.

Try to eat lower energy-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits and wholegrains instead. Opt for water or unsweetened tea or coffee in place of sugary drinks.


4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and pulses such as beans

Evidence shows that vegetables, fruits and other foods containing dietary fibre (such as wholegrains and pulses) may protect against a range of cancers including mouth, stomach and bowel cancer. They also help to protect against weight gain and obesity.

As well as eating your 5 A DAY, try to include wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta) and/or pulses with every meal.


5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats

There is strong evidence that red and processed meats are causes of bowel cancer, and that there is no amount of processed meat that can be confidently shown not to increase risk.

Aim to limit intake of red meat to less than 500g cooked weight (about 700-750g raw weight) a week. Try to avoid processed meats such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages.


6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day

Since the 1997 report, the evidence that alcoholic drinks can increase the risk of a number of cancers, including breast and colon cancer, is much stronger.

Any alcohol consumption can increase your risk of cancer, though there is some evidence to suggest that small amounts of alcohol can help protect against heart disease. Therefore, if you choose to drink, do so in moderation.


7. Limit consumption of salty foods and food processed with salt (sodium)

Evidence shows that salt and salt-preserved foods probably cause stomach cancer.
Try to use herbs and spices to flavour your food and remember that processed foods, including bread and breakfast cereals, can contain large amounts of salt.


8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer

Research shows that high-dose nutrient supplements can affect our risk of cancer, so it's best to opt for a balanced diet without supplements.

However, supplements are advisable for some groups of people (see our recommendations booklet to learn more).

Special Population Recommendations

Recommendations 9 and 10 don’t apply to everyone, but if they are relevant to you, it’s best to follow them.

9. It's best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods

Strong evidence shows that breastfeeding protects mothers against
breast cancer and babies from excess weight gain.


10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention

The Report found growing evidence that maintaining a healthy weight through diet and physical activity may help to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.


And, always remember – do not smoke or chew tobacco
Smoking or using tobacco in any form increases the risk of cancer and other serious diseases.


To find out how to incorporate the recommendations into your everyday life visit WCRF UK’s

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases in which cells are aggressive (grow and divide without respect to normal limits), invasive (invade and destroy adjacent tissues), and/or metastatic (spread to other locations in the body). These three malignant properties of cancers differentiate them from benign tumors, which are self-limited in their growth and do not invade or metastasize (although some benign tumor types are capable of becoming malignant). Cancer may affect people at all ages, even fetuses, but risk for the more common varieties tends to increase with age.[1] Cancer causes about 13% of all deaths.[2] Apart from humans, forms of cancer may affect other animals and plants.

Nearly all cancers are caused by abnormalities in the genetic material of the transformed cells. These abnormalities may be due to the effects of carcinogens, such as tobacco smoke, radiation, chemicals, or infectious agents. Other cancer-promoting genetic abnormalities may be randomly acquired through errors in DNA replication, or are inherited, and thus present in all cells from birth. Complex interactions between carcinogens and the host genome may explain why only some develop cancer after exposure to a known carcinogen. New aspects of the genetics of cancer pathogenesis, such as DNA methylation, and microRNAs are increasingly being recognized as important.

Genetic abnormalities found in cancer typically affect two general classes of genes. Cancer-promoting oncogenes are often activated in cancer cells, giving those cells new properties, such as hyperactive growth and division, protection against programmed cell death, loss of respect for normal tissue boundaries, and the ability to become established in diverse tissue environments. Tumor suppressor genes are often inactivated in cancer cells, resulting in the loss of normal functions in those cells, such as accurate DNA replication, control over the cell cycle, orientation and adhesion within tissues, and interaction with protective cells of the immune system.

Cancer is usually classified according to the tissue from which the cancerous cells originate, as well as the normal cell type they most resemble. These are location and histology, respectively. A definitive diagnosis usually requires the histologic examination of a tissue biopsy specimen by a pathologist, although the initial indication of malignancy can be symptoms or radiographic imaging abnormalities. Most cancers can be treated and some cured, depending on the specific type, location, and stage. Once diagnosed, cancer is usually treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As research develops, treatments are becoming more specific for different varieties of cancer. There has been significant progress in the development of targeted therapy drugs that act specifically on detectable molecular abnormalities in certain tumors, and which minimize damage to normal cells. The prognosis of cancer patients is most influenced by the type of cancer, as well as the stage, or extent of the disease. In addition, histologic grading and the presence of specific molecular markers can also be useful in establishing prognosis, as well as in determining individual treatments.





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