Nanny’s five a day will not stop cancer
Eating five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables every day will not protect you from cancer as they have little effect compared with smoking, alcohol and obesity, a study finds.
Official guidelines recommend at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in order to be healthy but new research has found that this may not have a substantial effect on cancer.
The science suggests that people should be told that cancer risk is much more related to how much you smoke, eat and drink rather than what you eat.
The review, published in the British Journal of Cancer, looks at a decade of evidence on the links between fruit and vegetables and the development of cancer, but it concludes that the evidence is still not convincing.
The only diet-related factors that definitely affect cancer risk are obesity and alcohol, they discovered.
Tobacco is still the single biggest cause of cancer.
While smoking increases the risk of cancer by as much as 50 fold, even large consumptions of fruit and veg will only reduce the risk by a maximum of 10 per cent.
Professor Tim Key, an epidemiologist from Oxford University, said that while there are undoubted benefits in eating fruit and vegetables there is little hard evidence that they protect against cancer.
But the evidence is indisputable that cancer is strongly linked to being overweight or obese, and drinking more alcohol than the recommended daily limits.
He said: “Fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet and a good source of nutrients.
“But so far the data does not prove that eating increased amounts of fruit and vegetables offers much protection against cancer.
“But there’s strong scientific evidence to show that, after smoking, being overweight and alcohol are two of the biggest cancer risks.”
Overweight people produce higher levels of certain hormones than people of a healthy weight and this can contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Being overweight can increase your risk of other common cancers like bowel and also hard-to-treat forms of the disease like pancreatic, oesophageal and kidney cancer.
When alcohol is broken down by the body it produces a chemical which can damage cells increasing the risk of mouth, throat, breast, bowel and liver cancers.
In the UK 15,000 cases of cancer are caused by alcohol, it is believed, and 19,000 cases of cancer are caused by being overweight or obese.
Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “Too few people know about the significant cancer risks associated with obesity and drinking too much alcohol.
“While stopping smoking remains the best way to cut your chances of developing cancer, the importance of keeping a healthy weight and cutting down on alcohol shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Keeping alcohol intake to a maximum of one small drink a day for women and two small drinks per day for men and keeping weight within the healthy limits can have an enormous impact.”
The British research mirrors the findings of an American study published in April.
For every extra two portions consumed the risk of cancer reduced by just three per cent, the research conducted by a team at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York suggested.
Tags: alcohol, Cancer, cancer survival, nanny state, NHS Deaths, obese, preventable crisis, smokers, smoking ban