In a new study, French researchers find that a healthy diet was linked less overall cancer risk, as well as lower breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer risks.
The healthy diet encourages both healthy eating and physical activity and discourages alcohol drinking.
Several national and international organizations have provided nutritional and lifestyle recommendations with the aim of improving health of the general population.
The adherence to these recommendations can be calculated at the individual level.
In the current study, the researchers examined the associations between four nutritional scores and overall, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer risk in a large population.
The data were from the cancer-specific World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) score, the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010), a score based on adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MEDI-LITE), and the French National Nutrition Health Program-Guideline Score (PNNS-GS).
It included 41,543 participants aged 40 years and older. A total of 1,489 incident cancers were diagnosed.
The team found that one-point increment of the WCRF/AICR score was significantly linked to decreased overall caner risk, breast cancer risk and prostate cancer risks.
In addition, the PNNS-GS score was linked reduced colorectal cancer risk and AHEI-2010 was associated with reduced overall cancer risk.
The WCRF/AICR score performed best. Compared with other tested scores, it included a stronger penalty for alcohol, which is a major risk factor for several cancer sites.
The researchers suggest that better adherence to nutritional recommendations, especially those designed for cancer prevention, could help lower cancer risks.
For example, antioxidants from fruits and vegetables may contribute to counteract some of the oxidative damage to the DNA caused by red meat and processed meat.
Exercise could lower blood pressure, partly counteracting the effects of high-sodium foods.
This emphasizes the role of an overall healthy lifestyle—nutrition and physical activity and alcohol avoidance—in cancer prevention.
The authors are Mathilde Touvier, MSc, MPH, Ph.D., head of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN) of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), University of Paris 13, and Bernard Srour, PharmD, MPH, and Ph.D. candidate in nutritional epidemiology at EREN-Inserm.
The study is published in Cancer Research.
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Journal reference: Cancer Research (2018). DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-0155