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Eating a balanced diet is one of the best choices you can make for your overall health.
Experts think that up to 1 in 10 (10%) cancers in the UK may be linked to diet. There’s a lot of research being done into which types of food may affect our risk of developing cancer.
One report showed that a lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet may contribute to about 6 out of 100 (6%) cancers in men. Being overweight may contribute to about 7 out of 100 (7%) cancers in women. There are many other reasons why people are overweight, but an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are often factors.
However, we still don’t understand exactly how diet influences the risk of developing cancer. There are many reasons for this, mainly because both cancer and diet are complex.
Eating habits are very different from person to person. Our diets are made up of many types of foods, which in turn are made up of thousands of different substances. Some of these substances may increase our risk of cancer but others may protect us. And the influence on what we eat, and our risk of cancer, is likely to take many years, or even decades, to have an effect. So trying to find out how diet affects our risk of developing cancer is complicated.
For now, we do know which types of food help keep us healthy. And we know that a balanced diet and regular exercise helps us keep to a healthy weight, which can help reduce the risk of developing some cancers.
For more information about exercise, visit our section on physical activity and cancer|. It has links to helpful organisations, videos about physical activity and its benefits, and tips to help you move more.
Many people find making this positive choice helps give them back a sense of control. It can also help you feel that you’re doing the best for your health. Thinking about what and how much you drink| is part of this too.
Eating well and keeping to a healthy weight| will help you maintain or regain your strength, have more energy, and have an increased sense of well-being. It can also help reduce the risk of new cancers, heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
After cancer treatment, some people have a higher risk of developing other health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease or osteoporosis (bone thinning)|. If you’ve been told that you may be at an increased risk of any of these conditions, it’s especially important to follow a healthy diet to help prevent them.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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