Report Cites Diet, Exercise as Keys in Prevention of Cancer

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- A comprehensive evidence-based report issued by an international expert panel provides an unprecedented analysis supporting the preventability of cancer by way of diet, exercise, and avoidance of obesity.

Developed over a 5-year period by a multinational team of 21 experts, the 517-page report updates a previous report issued in 1997. The document, entitled Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, is a joint publication of two independent research funding organizations, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the London-based World Cancer Research Fund.

Data from more than 7,000 studies were analyzed to come up with 10 basic recommendations for cancer prevention:

* Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.

* Be physically active as part of everyday life.

* Limit consumption of energy-dense foods. Avoid sugary drinks.

* Eat mostly foods of plant origin.

* Limit intake of red meat and avoid eating processed meat.

* Limit alcoholic drinks.

* Limit consumption of salt. Avoid moldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes). (The second point is aimed at minimizing exposure to aflatoxins).

* Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet rather than with dietary supplements.

* Mothers should breast-feed and children should be breast-fed.

* Cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.

With each recommendation, the report adds specific public health goals and personal recommendations, many of them including target numbers. And although the report does not address the issue of smoking, it does include this italicized statement: And always remember--do not smoke or chew tobacco.

"This report gives a complex perspective that puts in context all the messages you've been hearing about over the last 10 years.... This is not simply a collection and a sifting by experts. This is a very studied collation, with mathematically rigorous analyses, that takes account of a whole host of different things," said expert panel member Dr. W. Philip T. James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force, an advocacy arm of the London-based International Association for the Study of Obesity.

The report comes on the heels of "an enormous explosion of research in the last 10 years," Dr. James added during a press briefing. In particular, although the 1997 report did cite evidence for a link between excess body weight and cancer, now "there's such coherence in that evidence and it's clear that being fat induces and causes more cancers than we thought last time."

If all 10 of the recommendations were to be adopted, cancer rates could be reduced by at least a third. …