Does a plant-based diet influence cancer risk and death?

Plant-based diets have been growing in popularity in recent years, but there is a plethora of conflicting information about the health effects of this diet. This study will use data from the UK Biobank study to determine the relationship between plant-based diets, and cancer risk and death.

  • Topic: Combination of cancers
  • Institution: University of Zurich
  • Country: Switzerland
  • Status: Ongoing
Researcher: Sabine Rohrmann

The plethora of information online about the health impact of plant-based diets is confusing to the public and major stakeholders and can paint plant-based diets in an unfavorable light. We are grateful for WCRF’s support that will enable us to investigate the impact of the planetary health diet on cancer risk and mortality. – Dr Sabine Rohrmann

Grant title

Does planetary health mean population health? Adherence to a planetary health diet and cancer risk and survival in a prospective cohort study

Background

Plant-based diets have been growing in popularity in recent years (ie diets rich in plant-based products that include little, if any, animal products). Apart from their potential health benefits, plant-based diets have been promoted as environmentally sustainable.

However, the abundance of non-scientific information online about the health impact of plant-based diets, with its wide range of credibility, can be confusing to the public. Recently, international experts of the influential EAT-Lancet Commission recommended a mostly plant-based, sustainable diet referred to as the planetary health diet. However, the effects of this diet on health, and particularly cancer, have yet to be evaluated.

Aims and objectives

The study aims to investigate if individuals adhering to the planetary health diet proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission are at a lower risk for cancer. Additionally, we will investigate if cancer survivors who follow the planetary health diet have lower risk of early death compared with cancer survivors who don’t follow the planetary health diet. We predict that people (both cancer-free and cancer survivors) who closely follow the planetary health diet will have a lower risk of cancer and will live longer than those who do not closely follow the planetary health diet.

How it will be done

For our analysis, we will use data from the UK Biobank study. This study contains detailed information from 500,000 people including their general health, dietary habits and lifestyle, recorded between 2006–10 from 22 centres in the UK. Newly diagnosed cancers, as well incidences of death, were also recorded. The analysis from this dataset will allow us to determine the relationship between the planetary health diet with cancer risk and death – both overall, and for specific, common cancers (ie breast, colorectal, prostate).