Cancer – reducing your risk of cancer through diet

It sounds boring, and you have probably heard it all before, but if you are really serious about reducing your risk of getting certain cancers, looking at what you eat and how much you eat is one of the best ways to begin.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is not only good for your overall health – it can also reduce your risk of cancer.

Obesity has been shown to contribute to certain types of cancer, so keeping to a healthy body weight also helps reduce your risk.

While some foods have been directly linked to an increase in the risk of developing cancer, it’s your overall diet that is more important than individual foods.

Here are some tips to help you on your way:

 Image credit: 123rf

1. Eat food high in fibre

Eating foods high in fibre, particularly wholegrains, helps keep your bowels (gut) healthy, which reduces the risk of bowel cancer. Wholegrains can be found in food such as wholemeal bread, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. These foods are less processed and better for you than their white alternatives. Fruit, vegetables and pulses (beans, lentils and peas) are also high in fibre.

2. Drink less alcohol

Research shows that people who drink alcohol are more likely to develop cancer. Alcohol has been linked to several different types of cancer, including breast and liver cancer. Cutting back on alcohol, or cutting it out of your life altogether, will also improve your health in other ways such as reducing the risk of high blood pressure and liver disease.

3. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit

Fruit and vegetables are rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals, which help reduce the risk of cancer. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables also helps maintain a healthy body weight, which adds further protection against cancer. Make sure you don’t overdo the fruit, as it is high in sugar and can contribute to weight gain.

4. Eat less processed and red meat

Research over the years has linked processed meat and red meat to an increased risk of bowel cancer. So, try cutting back on the amount you eat, have meat-free days, eat more chicken and fish or try some vegetarian dishes.

5. Avoid other processed foods too

Choose whole, unrefined foods over highly processed foods, which are often high in fat, sugar and salt. Sugary drinks like fizzy, and fruit juices, which are also high in sugar, should be avoided to reduce weight gain.

Remember, the other things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer: stop smoking, exercise regularly and be sun smart. Make sure you get regular screening for breast, cervical, prostate, bowel and other cancers.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, please contact your healthcare provider or GP.


  1. Does having a healthy diet reduce my risk of cancer? Cancer Research, UK
  2. Ten tips to reduce your cancer risk Cancer Society, NZ
  3. 1 in 3 cancers can be prevented Cancer Council, Australia