Healthy diet and cancer risk: What do we know?

Studies have shown that diets rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and chicken—and low on sugar and red meat—can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. But evidence that healthy diets also reduce cancer risk remains less conclusive. Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition Chair at Harvard School of Public Health, spoke to Cancer Today about this still relatively new and challenging area of research.

In the Q&A, which appears in the Fall 2014 issue, Willett shared some findings that have emerged in recent years: Weight gain can increase cancer risk, and high red meat consumption may increase colorectal and breast cancer risk. In addition, it has been documented that people from countries with low rates of cancer increase their cancer risk when they move to the United States.

“This says in a powerful way that [U.S. cancer] rates are not due to genetic factors and that we have the potential—if we can identify those modifiable factors and act upon them—to dramatically reduce rates of cancer in Western countries,” Willett said.

Read Cancer Today article: Eating Well