Effects of Diet and Physical Activity on Risks for Certain Cancers

This table provides a summary of the current evidence on how the risks for certain types of cancer* might be affected by diet and physical activity, as outlined in the American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. The full version of the Guideline is available online at https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591.

Cancer Site

Body Weight

Physical Activity

Diet

Alcohol

Breast

Weight gain during adult life and/or excess body fatness increases risk after menopause.

Weight loss may lower risk.

Physical activity, especially 
moderate to vigorous, lowers risk for post-menopausal cancer and may also lower risk for pre-menopausal cancer.

Regular vigorous physical activity lowers risk for pre-menopausal cancer.

Dietary patterns rich in plant foods and low in animal products and refined carbohydrates lower risk.

The Mediterranean Diet pattern lowers risk.

Consumption of non-starchy vegetables and/or vegetables rich in carotenoids may lower risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer.

Diets higher in calcium and calcium-rich dairy may reduce risk.

Alcohol use increases the risk for both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer.

Colorectal

Excess body weight is a strong risk factor.

Regular moderate to vigorous physical activity can reduce risk of colon, but not rectal, cancer.

Reducing sedentary behavior may lower risk of colon cancer, but not the risk of rectal cancer.

A healthy eating pattern with whole grains, higher fiber, and less added sugar lowers risk.

Eating non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit probably lowers risk.

Processed meat intake, even in small amounts, and red meat in moderate to high amounts, increases risk.

Consuming non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit probably lowers risk.

Diets higher in calcium, calcium-rich dairy foods, and supplemental calcium may lower risk.

Low blood levels of vitamin D may increase risk.

Alcohol use increases risk.

Endometrial

To reduce risk, achieve a healthy weight and avoid weight gain and excess body fat.

Weight loss may lower risk.

Participating in regular moderate to vigorous physical activity lowers risk.

Reducing sedentary time may reduce risk.

Eating a diet with low glycemic load (avoiding sweets, high sugar/low fiber foods and sweetened beverages) may reduce risk.

 

Gallbladder

Excess body weight is associated with higher risk.

Adult weight gain increases risk.

 

 

 

Kidney

High body weight and/or body fatness increase risk.

Regular moderate to vigorous physical activity reduces risk.

 

 

Liver

Staying at a healthy body weight and avoiding excess body fat lowers risk.

Regular physical activity may lower risk.

 

Consumption of fish may lower risk.

Alcohol use increases risk.

 

Lung

Body weight has not been linked with risk, likely because tobacco use is the primary risk factor and smokers tend to have low-normal body weight.

Regular physical activity may lower risk.

Sedentary behavior may increase risk.

 

Consuming non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit, including those high in vitamin C (especially for smokers), probably lowers risk.

Processed and red meat may increase risk.

High-dose beta-carotene supplements increase risk, particularly among smokers and those exposed to asbestos.

Alcohol use may increase risk.

Ovary

Excess body weight may increase risk.

Adult weight gain increases risk.

Regular physical activity may reduce risk.

 

 

Pancreas

Excess body weight increases risk.

Adult weight gain increases risk.

Regular physical activity may reduce risk.

Processed and red meats, as well as saturated fats in general, may increase risk.

Sugar-sweetened beverages may increase risk.

 

Prostate

Obesity is linked with higher risk for advanced prostate cancer.

 

Higher consumption of dairy products and calcium (> 2,000 mg/day) may increase risk.

 

Thyroid

Obesity is linked with increased risk.

Adult weight gain increases risk.

 

 

 

Stomach

Excess body weight increases risk for gastric cardia cancer.

Regular physical activity may reduce risk.

Regular intake of processed, grilled, or charcoaled meats increases risk for non-cardia gastric cancer.

Intake of non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit, especially citrus fruit, probably lowers risk.

Alcohol use probably increases risk.

 

Mouth, throat, esophagus

Evidence suggests excess body weight increases risk for mouth cancer, esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Esophageal adenocarcinoma risk may be lowered with regular physical activity.

Eating non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit probably lowers risk.

 

Alcohol use increases risk for mouth, throat, and esophageal cancer.

*This is not a complete list of cancer types that might be affected by diet or physical activity.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: June 9, 2020

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