We use non-essential cookies (including anonymous analytics) to help us understand if our website is working well and to learn what content is most useful to visitors. We also use some cookies which are essential for our platform to work and help us to provide you with the best experience possible. You can accept or reject our non-essential cookies and change your mind at any time. To learn more, please read our cookies policy.

Update cookie preferences

Is there a cancer prevention diet?

16 June 2017

Healthy diet and cancer

We explore the link between a healthy diet and cancer prevention.

Every day online and in the news we read stories about the latest 'superfood' that can prevent or cure cancer. Blueberries, beetroot, broccoli, garlic, green tea, turmeric...the list goes on. Despite there being numerous health benefits to eating these foods as part of a healthy balanced diet, none of them is a ‘superfood’ that is going to prevent or cure any disease.

There is no specific food, diet or lifestyle that is guaranteed to prevent someone from getting cancer, but there are things that we can all do that are proven to help reduce our risk.

Maintain a healthy body weight

Excess body fat is linked to an increased risk of 11 cancers, including ovarian, breast, bowel and endometrial cancer. Excess body fat, especially around the tummy, is also linked to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Be more physically active

Being physically active can help reduce the risk of cancer and many other diseases and disorders. Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, which doesn’t just mean exercising or playing a sport. Being physically active is about increasing your heart rate and making yourself a little out of breath and sweaty. Things such as going for a walk, doing the housework or gardening and washing the car count!

Eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and beans

Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Examples of a portion include three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables, two broccoli spears, two plums, one apple or a slice of melon.

Avoid processed starchy foods, instead have wholemeal and whole-grain bread, rice, pasta and cereals. These foods are not only full of vitamins and minerals but a great source of fibre too.


Healthy diet and cancer

Limit intake of red meat

Red meats are beef, pork, lamb and goat. Avoid processed meats such as burgers, sausages and bacon altogether or save for a very occasional treat.

Moderate alcohol intake

Stick to the recommended guidelines of 14 units a week. A unit is half a pint of beer, a small 76ml glass of wine or a single 25ml measure of spirit.

For more information on these recommendations and others, visit the World Cancer Research Fund website.

There are of course other factors that can affect someone’s risk of ovarian cancer, such as family history and genetics, and a woman’s menstrual history, but these are the factors that we know can help reduce risk and be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

Trying to maintain a regular and healthy diet can be difficult during treatment for ovarian cancer due to the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. If you are struggling with your diet and are looking for some help then speak to your clinical nurse specialist who can refer you to a registered dietitian.

Sandra Evans, an Ovarian Cancer Action Voice, found her experience visiting a dietitian whilst undergoing treatment was very positive. She said:

"My consultant referred me to a dietitian when my appetite went and I started to lose weight.  I found this very helpful and would recommend women to seek their help if they are struggling with eating and drinking."

For information about dietitians and their role in managing a healthy lifestyle visit the British Dietetic Association's website.