World Cancer Research Fund's Cancer Prevention Recommendations can help people live cancer-free lives. They can also be used to help form policies that reduce the incidence of cancer more widely.
What are the Recommendations?
The Recommendations help people to reduce their risk of developing cancer. They are based on the latest science available, and derive from the extensive evidence that was analysed for Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective – the Third Expert Report from World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research. Only evidence that strongly links a risk factor to cancer is used to make a recommendation. We make 10 Recommendations, on weight, exercise, healthy diet, fast foods, meat, sugary drinks, alcohol, supplements, and breastfeeding, and for people with cancer.
Why do we make Recommendations?
The work of World Cancer Research Fund falls into two main parts. First, we want to find out what causes cancer, and how what we eat and drink, what we weigh and how active we are affect our risk of getting cancer.
But we also want to share the evidence with as many people as possible, to enable us all to make healthy choices in our daily lives to reduce our risk of cancer and other non-communicable diseases. Our Recommendations are a straightforward way to share our cancer science globally. They can be used by individuals, families, health professionals, communities, policymakers and the media.
“The Cancer Prevention Recommendations are the centrepiece of our new report. They form a global blueprint, a package that people can follow to help reduce their risk of cancer. They are useful to scientists because they can help determine future directions of research. They are useful to policymakers because they can inform the development of policy to help people follow them. They are useful to communities and families and individuals to help them reduce their cancer risk, and also to cancer survivors to highlight the best ways to further reduce their cancer risk. They are also helpful to health professionals in their work with cancer patients and the general public.”
– Dr Kate Allen, World Cancer Research Fund International’s Executive Director of Science & Public Affairs
Will the Recommendations stop people getting cancer?
The Cancer Prevention Recommendations work together as an overall way of living healthily to prevent cancer. They provide a blueprint to beat cancer that people can trust, because they are based on evidence that has now proved consistent for decades. A growing number of independent studies shows that the more closely people follow our Recommendations, the lower their risk of developing cancer.
Do people have to follow all the Recommendations?
To prevent cancer, people should aim to follow as many as possible of the Cancer Prevention Recommendations. However, any change that works towards meeting the goals set out in the Recommendations will go some way to reducing cancer risk.
The individual Recommendations form a package that, taken together, direct people towards healthy patterns of diet and physical activity. People do not eat foods in isolation but in combination, forming an overall diet. Different components of the diet interact with one another, so the impact of one factor may be influenced by another. We are confident that following all the Recommendations offers more protection than following just one.
Are the Recommendations for everyone?
The vast majority of adults can follow our Recommendations to reduce their cancer risk. Specific groups of people, such as cancer survivors, need to consider our advice alongside guidance from their health professionals. The Recommendations have been designed to be culturally relevant everywhere. We also provide guidance on some cancer risk factors that are specific to parts of the world.
Can people trust the Recommendations?
Our Recommendations are based on findings in the Continuous Update Project – a rigorous systematic review of evidence relating diet, nutrition and physical activity to cancer, as well as an expert review of biological pathways (mechanisms) that could plausibly explain a causal link between the exposure and the risk of cancer. Recommendations are made only when our panel of experts judges the evidence to be sufficiently strong. Our experts have also taken into account relevant dietary advice from authoritative international and national organisations.
Studies evaluating adherence to the Recommendations in the 2007 Second Expert Report have shown that the more closely people adhere to them, the greater the reductions in the risk of specific cancers, of cancer as a whole and of death from any cause.
What are the public health and policy implications?
Around 40 per cent of all cancer cases are preventable, so it is crucial that governments prioritise the prevention of cancer.
Our Recommendations constitute a blueprint for reducing cancer risk through changing dietary patterns, reducing alcohol consumption, increasing physical activity and achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Although well-informed individual choices are important, many factors, such as the availability of different foods and the accessibility of physical environments for active ways of life, are outside people’s direct personal control. In order to effect change at a population level it is therefore critical to consider the environment within which people make their choices.
The prevention of cancer is one of the most significant public health challenges of the 21st century. Achieving healthy patterns of diet and sustained physical activity over the life course requires concerted and integrated action from all sectors of society, including civil society, private sector, and health and other professions.
Our evidence-based Recommendations can help direct, shape and stimulate the required concerted action to benefit everybody. Find out much more about policy action for cancer prevention.
This webpage is a summary.
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