Conclusive Report: Obesity, lack of exercise, and poor diet cause cancer

1 Nov 2007
Maintaining a weight at the lower end of the healthy range greatly reduces the risk of cancer according to a landmark report from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

The study assessed 7000 papers from nine academic institutions, resulting in stronger scientific links between body fat and cancer than ever before. Its key finding is that maintaining a healthy weight (a BMI* of 20-25) is one of the most important things you can do to prevent cancer.

The number of types of cancer where there is “convincing” evidence that body fat is a cause has risen from one to six since the last WCRF report was published in 1997, including colorectal cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer.

Prof Sir Michael Marmot, Chair of the Panel, said: “We are recommending that people aim to be as lean as possible within the healthy range, and that they avoid weight gain throughout adulthood.

“This might sound difficult, but this is what the science is telling us more clearly than ever before. The fact is that putting on weight can increase your cancer risk, even if you are still within the healthy range.

The report also made several clear recommendations on lifestyle such as avoiding red meat, alcohol, bacon, ham, processed meats, sugary drinks, weight gain after 21, dietary supplements, whilst exercising every day and breastfeeding children.

Professor Mike Richards, the Government's Clinical Director for Cancer, welcomed the report in advance of his Cancer Reform Strategy.

He said: “The WCRF report is the most authoritative and exhaustive review done thus far on the prevention of cancer through food, nutrition and physical activity.

“For those of us wanting to lower our risk of developing cancer, the Report provides practical lifestyle recommendations. The Report also provides public health goals. Both will form an important element for the forthcoming Cancer Reform Strategy.”

*BMI: Body mass index: Weight divided by the square of the height