Reducing Cancer Risk through Diet…

It is known that you can reduce your risk of developing cancer through living a healthy lifestyle. Although there are no proven ways of preventing cancer, you can reduce your risk of developing it.

A healthy lifestyle is defined by the following:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Not smoking/stopping smoking
  • Protecting your skin from the sun


There are often stories in the news with regards to certain foods being linked to preventing cancers. A lot of research is currently going into the links between diet and developing cancer. It is not an easy study to undertake as there are so many different factors that can be looked at and cancer can take years to develop, however preliminary evidence would suggest that some components of food may play a role in decreasing the risk of developing cancer. These components include phytochemicals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Phytochemicals – These occur naturally in plants that protect against bacteria, viruses and fungi. Scientists believe there could be up to 10,000 different types that have the potential to affect diseases such as cancer and stroke. Foods they can be found in include: broccoli, berries, soynuts, pears, carrots, spinach, olives, lentils, tomatoes, garlic, apples, cabbage, kale, red wine and many more.

Antioxidants – These are substances that inhibit the oxidation process and also act as protective agents. They protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals (these are by-products of the body’s natural processes). Free radicals attach healthy cells, which changes the DNA and can cause tumours to grow. A lot of research is being done into the role of antioxidants in decreasing the risk of developing cancer. Antioxidants include:

  • Vitamin C: Oranges, green pepper, strawberries, papaya, broccoli and many more.
  • Beta carotene (also known as Vitamin A): carrots, squash, collards, spinach and sweet potatoes.
  • Vitamin E: Sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazlenuts, peanuts, bran cereal, wheat bread and many more.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – These are being studied for the effects that they have on delaying or reducing tumour development, specifically in breast and prostate cancer. Our bodies cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, so we must get them from our food or supplements: seafood (particularly salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, lake trout and many more), flaxseed oil and beans (such as kidney, great northern, navy and soybeans).


Eating a healthy diet is important, but maintaining a healthy wait is equally so. In England, over 60% of the population is overweight and this can increase the risks of some cancers such as:

  • Bowel Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Oesophageal Cancer
  • Breast Cancer (post menopause)
  • Cancer of the womb
  • Kidney Cancer

You can find out what a healthy weight for you is by calculating your BMI.


Alcohol is known to increase your risk from some cancers including:

  • Mouth Cancer
  • Pharynx and larynx cancer
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer in men
  • Breast Cancer

It has also been linked to an increased number of cases of:

  • Colorectal Cancer in women
  • Liver cancer

Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day and men, 3-4. Regularly is defined as every day or most days of the week.

As the research into these links continues, we will be provided with more specific advice as to what foods can help reduce our risks. Continuing to ensure that you are getting balanced diet and living a healthy lifestyle are the most important ways to ensure you are reducing your risk.