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Diet, healthy eating and cancer

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can reduce your risk of cancer.The link between diet and cancer is complex and difficult to unravel. This is because our diet is made up of lots of different foods and nutrients. Many of these could affect our risk of cancer, often in combination with one another.

Scientists need to conduct very large studies to see which specific foods may reduce the risk of cancer, and which could raise the risk. Many of these studies are underway, including the EPIC study (European Prospective study Into Cancer) which is part funded by Cancer Research UK. The EPIC study is the largest study into diet and cancer to date, and it involves over 500,000 people from 10 European countries who are being followed for many years.  Results from EPIC and other large studies are already providing us with firmer answers.

For now, we know about the general types of food that can help to keep us healthy. And we know that a balanced diet can help to maintain a healthy body weight, which can itself reduce the risk of many cancers.

You can reduce your cancer risk by eating a healthy, balanced diet that is:

Experts think that nearly one in ten UK cancer cases are linked to less healthy diets.

Which cancers are affected?

The food we eat can affect our risk of developing several different types of cancer, including cancers of the:
• Bowel
• Stomach
• Mouth
• Food pipe (gullet or oesophagus)


There are often stories in the media about specific foods or "anti-cancer diets" that are meant to be particularly good for us. But you shouldn’t rely on so-called superfoods to reduce the risk of cancer. They cannot substitute for a general healthy, balanced diet. And any single food on its own is unlikely to have a major impact on cancer risk.

Read our take on the evidence in Cancer Controversies.


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Updated: 15 September 2014