What Is Cancer?
World cancer research fund
Our recommendations are based on the findings of our 2007 Expert
Report, which contains the most comprehensive research available
on cancer prevention. They outline the practical steps you can
take to reduce your risk.
10 Recommendations for Cancer
Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
Convincing evidence shows that weight gain and obesity increases
the risk of a number of cancers, including bowel and breast
Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular
physical activity to help keep your risk lower.
Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day
There is strong
evidence that physical activity protects against cancers
including bowel and breast cancer. Being physically active is
also key to maintaining a healthy weight.
Any type of activity counts – the more you do the better! Try to
build some into your everyday life.
Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly
processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fibre, or high in
foods are high in fats and/or sugars and can be low in nutrients.
These foods increase the risk of obesity and therefore cancer.
Sugary drinks, such as colas and fruit squashes can also
contribute to weight gain. Fruit juices, even without added
sugar, are likely to have a similar effect, so try not to drink
them in large quantities.
Try to eat lower energy-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits
and wholegrains instead. Opt for water or unsweetened tea or
coffee in place of sugary drinks.
Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and
pulses such as beans
shows that vegetables, fruits and other foods containing dietary
fibre (such as wholegrains and pulses) may protect against a
range of cancers including mouth, stomach and bowel cancer. They
also help to protect against weight gain and obesity.
As well as eating your 5 A DAY, try to include wholegrains (e.g.
brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta) and/or pulses with every
Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and
avoid processed meats
There is strong
evidence that red and processed meats are causes of bowel cancer,
and that there is no amount of processed meat that can be
confidently shown not to increase risk.
Aim to limit intake of red meat to less than 500g cooked weight
(about 700-750g raw weight) a week. Try to avoid processed meats
such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages.
If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1
for women a day
Since the 1997
report, the evidence that alcoholic drinks can increase the risk
of a number of cancers, including breast and colon cancer, is
Any alcohol consumption can increase your risk of cancer, though
there is some evidence to suggest that small amounts of alcohol
can help protect against heart disease. Therefore, if you choose
to drink, do so in moderation.
Limit consumption of salty foods and food processed with salt (sodium)
that salt and salt-preserved foods probably cause stomach cancer.
Try to use herbs and spices to flavour your food and remember
that processed foods, including bread and breakfast cereals, can
contain large amounts of salt.
Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer
that high-dose nutrient supplements can affect our risk of
cancer, so it's best to opt for a balanced diet without
However, supplements are advisable for some groups of people (see
our recommendations booklet to learn more).
Recommendations 9 and 10 don’t apply to everyone, but if they are
relevant to you, it’s best to follow them.
It's best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6
months and then add other liquids and foods
shows that breastfeeding protects mothers against
breast cancer and babies from excess weight gain.
10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the
recommendations for cancer prevention
The Report found growing evidence that
maintaining a healthy weight through diet and physical activity
may help to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
always remember – do not smoke or chew tobacco
Smoking or using tobacco in any
form increases the risk of cancer and other serious diseases.
To find out how to
incorporate the recommendations into your everyday life
visit WCRF UK’s
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a group of diseases in which cells are aggressive (grow and
divide without respect to normal limits), invasive (invade and destroy
adjacent tissues), and/or metastatic (spread to other locations in the
body). These three malignant properties of cancers differentiate them
from benign tumors, which are self-limited in their growth and do not
invade or metastasize (although some benign tumor types are capable of
becoming malignant). Cancer may affect people at all ages, even fetuses,
but risk for the more common varieties tends to increase with age.
Cancer causes about 13% of all deaths. Apart from humans, forms of
cancer may affect other animals and plants.
Nearly all cancers are caused by abnormalities in the genetic material
of the transformed cells. These abnormalities may be due to the effects
of carcinogens, such as tobacco smoke, radiation, chemicals, or
infectious agents. Other cancer-promoting genetic abnormalities may be
randomly acquired through errors in DNA replication, or are inherited,
and thus present in all cells from birth. Complex interactions between
carcinogens and the host genome may explain why only some develop cancer
after exposure to a known carcinogen. New aspects of the genetics of
cancer pathogenesis, such as DNA methylation, and microRNAs are
increasingly being recognized as important.
Genetic abnormalities found in cancer typically affect two general
classes of genes. Cancer-promoting oncogenes are often activated in
cancer cells, giving those cells new properties, such as hyperactive
growth and division, protection against programmed cell death, loss of
respect for normal tissue boundaries, and the ability to become
established in diverse tissue environments. Tumor suppressor genes are
often inactivated in cancer cells, resulting in the loss of normal
functions in those cells, such as accurate DNA replication, control over
the cell cycle, orientation and adhesion within tissues, and interaction
with protective cells of the immune system.
Cancer is usually classified according to the tissue from which the
cancerous cells originate, as well as the normal cell type they most
resemble. These are location and histology, respectively. A definitive
diagnosis usually requires the histologic examination of a tissue biopsy
specimen by a pathologist, although the initial indication of malignancy
can be symptoms or radiographic imaging abnormalities. Most cancers can
be treated and some cured, depending on the specific type, location, and
stage. Once diagnosed, cancer is usually treated with a combination of
surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As research develops, treatments
are becoming more specific for different varieties of cancer. There has
been significant progress in the development of targeted therapy drugs
that act specifically on detectable molecular abnormalities in certain
tumors, and which minimize damage to normal cells. The prognosis of
cancer patients is most influenced by the type of cancer, as well as the
stage, or extent of the disease. In addition, histologic grading and the
presence of specific molecular markers can also be useful in
establishing prognosis, as well as in determining individual treatments.