What we know about preventing cancer

You can make a cancer diagnosis less likely by taking a few simple steps. Researchers all over the world have tested our Cancer Prevention Recommendations and shown that they can lower your risk of cancer and improve survival.

Cancer is a complex disease – no single factor is likely to be the cause, nor can a single piece of research give us all the answers.

However, it’s clear from the thousands of studies into cancer and lifestyle that we’ve looked at, that there are simple things you can do today to reduce your risk.

What you eat and drink, how much you weigh, and how physically active you are can all make a difference.

Our Cancer Prevention Recommendations

We’ve analysed the scientific evidence from around the world and translated the results into practical, easy-to-follow advice, which form our Cancer Prevention Recommendations.

Our Recommendations are intended to reduce the risk of cancer by helping people to maintain a healthy weight and adopt healthy patterns of eating, drinking and physical activity throughout life, as well as guiding governments towards the policy changes that could be made to reduce population-wide cancer risk.

Since 2007, independent scientists have investigated the impact of following our Recommendations on risk of new cancer cases and deaths, to test how effective they are. More recently, the Recommendations have also been studied within cancer survivors too.

We’ve identified over 20 scientific articles that look at the impact of following the 2007 Cancer Prevention Recommendations on the risk of getting cancer and on surviving cancer.

Overall, these articles show that following our Recommendations lowers the risk of new cancer cases, dying from cancer and dying from all causes, as well as improving quality of life for cancer survivors.

Our research

We fund research that looks at the effects of diet, nutrition, weight and physical activity on cancer prevention and survival.

In November 2020, we awarded more than £3.5m of funding to 13 projects that will investigate a range of cancers and risk factors, such as:

  • whether or not eating ultra-processed foods – like biscuits, cakes, ready meals, and crisps – increases the risk of developing cancer
  • why nitrate and nitrites in vegetables seem to be harmless compared to nitrates and nitrites in processed meats
  • the cancerous effects of acrylamide in human kidney tissue.

Our Recommendations empower people to lead happier, healthier, cancer-free lives.

Dr Giota MitrouMany people believe that getting cancer is down to your genes, fate or just bad luck, but there are things you can do to reduce your cancer risk.

There’s a lot of confusion these days about what’s healthy and what’s not. Our Recommendations are based on the latest research so you know you can trust them.
Dr Giota Mitrou, Director of Research Funding and Science External Relations