Lifestyle blamed for third of cancers

Changing your diet can significantly cut the risk of 12 different cancers. A Harvard University study published in the Lancet reveals nine modifiable risk factors including diet and obesity. Of the seven million deaths from cancer worldwide in 2001, 2.43 million were linked to the nine risk factors. The Harvard team concluded that in high-income countries, smoking, alcohol use and obesity were the most important risk factors while in low and middle-income countries were smoking, alcohol use and low consumption of fruit and vegetables played the leading role. The World Health Organisation warns that dietary factors account for around 30 per cent of cancers in western countries (making diet second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer) and 20 per cent in developing countries and these figures are rising.


  • Obesity
  • Low fruit and vegetable intake
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Unsafe sex
  • Urban air pollution
  • Indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels
  • Contaminated medical injections

Danaei G, Vander Hoorn S, Lopez AD, Murray CJ and Ezzati M; Comparative Risk Assessment collaborating group (Cancers). 2005. Causes of cancer in the world: comparative risk assessment of nine behavioural and environmental risk factors. Lancet. 366 (9499) 1784-1793.