(Based on the recommendations of the 2018 Expert Report from the World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research: “Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective”, that updates previous recommendations issued in 1997 and 2007).
The report was published in May 2018 and although it has over 12 thousand pages, there is a summarised version of “only” 116 pages, being both available to download, if you want to get more detailed information. This blog entry will highlight the main cancer prevention suggestions reported in the report.
- Keep your weight within the healthy range (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9) and avoid weight gain in adult life. Obesity is linked with many cancer types, and is becoming a global epidemic, especially in developed countries.
- Be physically active as part of everyday life: walk more and sit less. Moderate and vigorous (yes: running would be included here) physical activity has been proved to reduce some types of cancer. Walking itself protects against weight gain, overweight and obesity. We should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes vigorous a week.
- Make wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, and legumes a major part of your usual diet. Eat at least 30g of fibre and five servings (at least 400g) of non-starchy vegetables and fruits everyday.
- Lowering your intake of processed foods high in fat, refined starches and sugars, helps to control your calorie intake. Not all foods high in fat need to be avoided, as certain oils, nuts and seeds, are important sources of nutrients and they have not been linked with weight gain.
- Eat moderate amounts of red meat (muscle meat from mammals) and little processed meat (ham, salami, bacon…). Poultry and fish are valuable substitutes for red meat, with eggs, dairy, cereals and legumes as alternative sources of protein and micronutrients.
- Limit sugar sweetened drinks, a cause of weight gain. A can (330mL) of a typical sugary drink can have as much as 35g of sugar (equivalent to 7 teaspoons). Drink water, or alternatively tea or coffee without sugar. Juices can also contribute to weight gain because of high sugar levels.
- Control your alcohol consumption, strongly related with some types of cancer. There is no difference on the drink type or quantity: even small quantities of alcoholic drinks increase the risk of several cancers.
- Do not use dietary supplements for cancer prevention, as there is no strong evidence that they can reduce risks (besides calcium for colorectal cancer). High-dose beta-carotene supplements may increase lung cancer risk. Try meeting your nutritional needs uniquely through diet.
- And finally an advice only for mothers: breastfeeding prevents against breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. There are also benefits for the baby: healthy growth (avoiding overweight) and a better immune system.
Some of the previous recommendations may seem obvious to people trying to follow a healthy lifestyle, but with increasingly sedentary manners, running may be your first step in the fight against cancer.