Exercise and diet can prevent one-third of cancers


ABOUT ONE-THIRD of the most common cancers could be prevented through healthy diets, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.

This was the main message from a host of global organisations yesterday on World Cancer Day which this year focused on cancer prevention.

Dr Susan Higginbotham, director of research at the American Institute for Cancer, said making even small changes in the right direction could help lower the risk of cancer.

The institute has distilled the learning from thousands of studies on the subject of diet, weight, physical activity and cancer into the following recommendations: be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day; eat more of a variety of fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains and beans; avoid sugary drinks; limit the consumption of salty and processed foods and red meat; limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women each day; be as lean as possible without becoming underweight; do not use supplements to protect against cancer; mothers should breastfeed exclusively for up to six months, and, after treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.

“When it comes to cancer, there are no guarantees,” Dr Higginbotham said, adding that the recommendations represent “the best advice available anywhere”.

The World Health Organisation also focused on the benefits of exercise in preventing certain cancers. It said if over-18s undertake 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity it can reduce their risk of breast and colon cancers.

John McCormack, of the Irish Cancer Society, said World Cancer Day was an opportunity to examine what we are doing to reduce our cancer risk. Each year about 12.7 million people discover they have cancer and 7.6 million die from the disease.