- Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective
Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, also known as the Expert Report, was an expert report published by the World Cancer Research Fund global network in 2007. It reviewed all the evidence about the links between cancer and diet, physical activity and body fat and contains 10 recommendations for reducing cancer risk.
The findings of the report
The overall findings of the report were that people can reduce their risk of cancer by eating healthily, being regularly physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. The report’s findings on the links between body fat and cancer were stronger than previously thought.
The Panel’s 10 recommendations for cancer prevention are:
Body Fatness: Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight
Physical Activity: Be physically active as part of everyday life
Foods and drinks that promote weight gain: Limit consumption of energy-dense foods; Avoid sugary drinks
Plant Foods: Eat mostly foods of plant origin
Animal Foods: Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat
Alcoholic Drinks: Limit alcoholic drinks
Preservation, processing, and preparation: Limit consumption of salt; Avoid mouldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes)
Dietary supplements: Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone
Breastfeeding (Special Recommendation): Mothers to breastfeed; children to be breastfed
Cancer survivors (Special Recommendation): Follow the recommendations for cancer prevention
Publishing the report
The Report took six years to produce and is thought to be the most comprehensive report of its kind.In the initial sweep, 500,000 studies were found, which were screened down to 22,000. Eventually, 7,000 were deemed relevant and met the rigorous quality criteria for definitive conclusions on cancer prevention to be drawn.
This information was then presented to an Expert Panel of 21 world-renowned scientists, which was chaired by Professor Sir Michael Marmot. The Panel reviewed the evidence and made 10 recommendations for cancer prevention.
The impact of the Expert Report
New Scientist magazine called the report a “landmark in our understanding of diet and cancer”, while The Economist called it “the most rigorous study so far on the links between food, physical activity and cancer”. In the UK, it was the front page of six national newspapers, including The Times, which described the report’s recommendations as “The new rules for defeating cancer”.
There was also some negative reaction to the report, with The Sun newspaper publishing a story with the headline “Save our Bacon” in response to the report’s advice to avoid eating processed meat and Michael Hanlon, writing in the Daily Mail newspaper, advised people to “ignore these scaremongers”.
However, Project Director of the report Professor Martin Wiseman responded: “Our recommendations are based on the best science available. They are recommendations, not commandments. The whole point of them is to give people the information they need to make their everyday choices informed ones.” Cancer Research UK has responded that “it would be grossly irresponsible of charities like Cancer Research UK and the WCRF to not talk about things that we know make people more likely to get cancer.”
The report has also had an impact on behaviour. A YouGov survey, commissioned by WCRF UK a year after the launch, revealed that since the launch 23 per cent of people had tried to eat more fruit and vegetables as a result of the report; 18 per cent of people had tried to watch their weight and 18 per cent of people had tried to be more physically active.
In May 2009, the report was criticised by University College London pharmacologist David Colquhoun on his blog Improbable Science. Colquhoun questioned the Expert Panel's conclusion that there is convincing evidence that processed meat is a cause of cancer, claiming that although the studies mentioned in the report show some correlation between consumption of processed meat and increased incidence of colorectal cancer, they do not demonstrate a causal relationship.
- ^ The Independent: 'Direct link' between cancer and obesity; 
- ^ Diet and Cancer Report website; 
- ^ BBC Online: Be thin to cut cancer, study says; 
- ^ WCRF UK website; 
- ^ WCRF website; 
- ^ New Scientist, Nov 1, 2007
- ^ The Economist: How to Prevent Cancers; 
- ^ The Times: New rules for defeating cancer; 
- ^ Food Matters; [www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/cabinetoffice/strategy/assets/food/food_matters1.pdf -]
- ^ The Sun: Save our bacon; 
- ^ Daily Mail: Ignore these scaremongers; 
- ^ The Independent: Cancer and the bacon sarnie; 
- ^ Cancer Research UK reaction to World Cancer Research Fund report; 
- ^ Daily Telegraph: More than one in ten cut down on bacon after World Cancer Research Fund report; 
- ^ Diet and health. What can you believe: or does bacon kill you?; 
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