According to new study from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), eliminating bacon and alcohol from your diet could reduce your risk of cancer up to 40 percent. The WCRF, which surveyed more than 51 million people, published a 10-point plan to cut your risk of developing cancer.
Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer and will probably overtake smoking as the “number one risk factor for cancer” in a few decades, the organization says. Excessive weight has been determined to be the cause of at least twelve cancers, five more than when the last WCRF study published in 2007.
The findings of the study will be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, Austria. The report makes two recommendations, urging people to “drink mostly water and unsweetened drinks” and to reduce their consumption of foods that are high in fat, starches and sugars to help manage calorie intake.
The number of new cases of cancer is projected to increase by 58% to 24 million globally by 2035 as more countries embrace “Western” lifestyles, according to the report. Roughly 40% of cancers are believed to be preventable, while twelve cancers are linked to obesity, including cancers of the liver, ovary, prostate, stomach, mouth and throat, join bowel, breast, gallbladder, kidney, esophagus, pancreas and womb.
“Avoiding tobacco in any form, together with appropriate diet, nutrition and physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight, have the potential over time to reduce much of the global burden of cancer,” the report says. “However, with current trends towards decreased physical activity and increased body fatness, the global burden of cancer can be expected to continue to rise until these issues are addressed, especially given projections of an ageing global population.”
The study also recommends consuming only moderate amounts of red meat, and “little, if any, processed meat.” The ideal diet should be rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans since these foods can help prevent cancer. Also, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed to reduce their risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol consumption should also limited, supplements for cancer prevention should be avoided and nutritional needs should be met through diet alone, the report authors said. Dr. Giota Mitrou, WCRF’s director of research funding and external relations, said there is “very strong evidence for a package of lifestyle behaviors as a blueprint for cancer prevention.”
“Our research shows it’s unlikely that specific foods or nutrients are important single factors in causing or protecting against cancer,” she added. “Rather, different patterns of diet and physical activity throughout life combine to make you more or less susceptible to cancer.”
Caroline Cerny of the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of health organizations, said that the report demonstrates that carrying excess weight can multiply the risk of cancer. Obesity is also linked to other health issues like Type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease, as well as mental health problems.
Cerny says that given that one in three children are overweight or obese by the age of 11, it’s not easy to tell people to simply eat less. There needs to be an environment that promotes healthy choices, rather than pushing people towards unhealthy options with endless advertisements, promotions and offers.
“The Government now has an opportunity to step up and publish a truly world leading obesity plan with strong measures to curb the influence of junk food marketing,” she says.