Scottish Cancer Prevention Network

Are Cancer Prevention Guidelines Effective?


Mar 15

WCRF/AICR guidelines (1) aimed at reducing cancer risk include:
• maintaining a healthy body weight (BMI < 25kg/m2)
• achieving at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week
• minimising sitting time
• moderating alcohol consumption to two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women
• eating a diet high in fruit, vegetable, pulses, wholegrains and low in red and processed meat
Kabat et al. (2) recently published a study  in which they prospectively examined whether greater adherence to cancer prevention guidelines is associated with a reduction in cancer incidence, cancer mortality, and total mortality. They followed almost half a million people, with no history of cancer, recruited at age 50–71, for up to 13 years.
Study results supported the evidence that adhering to cancer prevention guidelines relating to body weight, physical activity, alcohol consumption and diet was associated with a significant reduction in cancer incidence at a large number of cancer sites, cancer mortality and all-cause mortality. They found that 14 of 25 specific cancers showed a reduction in risk associated with greater adherence to guidelines. The cancers with the strongest associations were lung, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, bladder, skin, and leukaemia for men; bowel, gallbladder and kidney for both genders; breast, womb, and oral cancer for women. For cancer incidence, the strongest factors were BMI followed by diet, whereas for men, alcohol consumption was most important, followed by diet. The largest reduction with guideline adherence were seen for gallbladder (68%), endometrium (60%), liver (48% men), and colon (48% men).
Cancer prevention guidelines do help us stack the odds against cancer.

  1. World Cancer Research Fund UK Ways to reduce cancer risk

  3. Kabat GC, Matthews CE, Kamensky V et al. (2015) Adherence to cancer prevention guidelines and cancer incidence, cancer mortality, and total mortality: a prospective cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr;101:558-69