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Eight lifestyle choices identified that can reduce cancer risk by 30%

A new study has identified eight key lifestyle choices that can reduce the risk of certain cancers by up to 30 percent. These include limiting red meat intake to three servings per week, avoiding sugary beverages, and maintaining a diet rich in fiber. 

Regular physical activity, achieving a healthy weight, and minimizing fast food consumption also play crucial roles. Notably, completely abstaining from alcohol emerges as another critical step in cancer prevention.

Focus of the study 

This research, aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of previously established guidelines by The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), was conducted by scientists from Newcastle University, UK. 

The study involved analyzing data from 94,778 British adults, averaging 56 years in age, using self-reported information on diet and exercise, along with body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference measurements.

How the research was conducted

Participants were assessed based on their adherence to seven out of the ten original recommendations. Due to data limitations, some recommendations were excluded from the study such as avoiding cancer-fighting supplements and adhering to medical guidance post-cancer diagnosis.

The researchers tracked cancer diagnoses over an eight-year period using cancer registry data, adjusting for factors like age, sex, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and smoking habits.

Critical insights on lifestyle choices

On a scale of seven, the average adherence score among participants was 3.8. During the study, 7,296 participants (8 percent) were diagnosed with cancer. The findings revealed a clear link between adherence to these lifestyle recommendations and reduced cancer risk. 

For each additional guideline followed, individuals reduced their cancer risk by seven percent. Specifically, a one-point increase in adherence score correlated with significantly lower risks of various cancers, including breast, colorectal, kidney, esophageal, liver, ovarian, and gallbladder cancers.

Participants with adherence scores of 4.5 or higher exhibited a 16 percent reduced risk of all cancers combined, compared to those scoring 3.5 or less. 

Hormonal changes 

The study also shed light on the surprising protective role of breastfeeding, possibly due to hormonal changes during lactation that reduce lifetime exposure to estrogen, a factor linked to increased cancer risk. 

Additionally, fast food consumption’s association with cancer was attributed to its contribution to obesity, which can trigger hormonal changes fostering tumor growth. 

Harmful compounds 

Red and processed meats were highlighted for containing potentially harmful compounds, while alcohol was noted for its breakdown into acetaldehyde, a chemical linked to DNA damage and various cancers.

The researchers cautioned that the study’s observational nature means they cannot definitively conclude that adherence to these recommendations caused the lower cancer risk.

However, the findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, underscore the importance of lifestyle choices in cancer prevention.

Foods that may lower cancer risk

Several foods are known for their potential to lower cancer risk, due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and nutrient-rich properties. These include:

  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Berries, particularly blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, are rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane, a compound thought to have anti-cancer properties.
  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats offer dietary fiber, which is linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
  • Garlic and onions have sulfur compounds that might have anti-cancer effects.
  • Nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds, are rich in beneficial nutrients and healthy fats.
  • Turmeric, a spice containing curcumin, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Green tea is rich in catechins, antioxidants that may prevent cell damage and reduce cancer risk.

Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet, along with regular physical activity, can contribute to overall health and potentially reduce the risk of cancer.

Lifestyle choices that increase cancer risk

Cancer risk can be significantly influenced by various lifestyle factors. Smoking is perhaps the most well-known and significant risk factor for many types of cancer, including lung, throat, mouth, and bladder cancer. Similarly, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of cancers such as liver, breast, and esophagus cancer.


Diet also plays a critical role. Diets high in processed meats and low in fruits and vegetables can contribute to higher cancer risk. In particular, processed and red meats are associated with colorectal cancer. Obesity is another significant risk factor, increasing the risk of several cancers including breast, colon, and kidney cancers.

Physical activity

Physical inactivity contributes to cancer risk indirectly by increasing the likelihood of obesity, but it may also have a direct impact. Regular physical activity is known to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including breast and colon cancer.

Ultraviolet radiation

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds significantly increases the risk of skin cancers, including melanoma. Safe sun practices, such as using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing, are important preventive measures.

Pollutants and chemicals 

Other lifestyle factors include exposure to environmental pollutants and chemicals, which can increase cancer risk. This includes exposure to asbestos, certain chemicals in the workplace, and air pollution.


Additionally, certain infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B and C, are linked to cancer. Vaccinations and other preventive measures can reduce the risk of cancers associated with these viruses.

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