Food, nutrition, physical activity, and cancer prevention: evidence and recommendations


Session type:

Martin Wiseman1
1WCRF International, London, UK


Based on systematic reviews conducted at independent academic institutions in the USA, UK and continental Europe, an independent expert panel convened by WCRF International estimated that between about a third and a quarter of the commonest cancers worldwide could be prevented through improved patterns of diet and activity, and healthy body weight. The recommended dietary pattern, high in fibre-rich plant foods and low-energy, relatively unprocessed foods, and low in red and and processed meat, alcohol, salt and high energy foods, together with increased levels of activity, will also prevent other common noncommunicable diseases, including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This evidence has been combined into a single database, and is being updated continuously into the future. Based on separate reviews of the determinants of people's behaviour, the panel concluded that people's behaviour is shaped by their physical environment, and their social and economic circumstances as well as their personal knowledge, beliefs and attitudes. They concluded that education-based health promotion alone was unlikely to achieve the recommended changes, and broader policy action was needed to make the environments that determine people's choices more conducive to health. They evaluated the evidence according to their confidence in it, and its likely impact, and made evidence-based recommendations to nine groups of actors across the whole of society. These actors include national and international governmental and non-governmental organistions, industry, health and other professionals, schools, workplaces and other institutions, the media, as well as people themselves. Coherent action by all actors is needed to be effective, and leadership should come from health professionals and government. These two reports, publishe din 2007 and 2009 (Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective; and Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention), are the most comprehensive and authoritative reviews of this area.