The Role of Nutrition in Cancer Prevention and Management

The Role of Nutrition in Cancer Prevention and Management:

An Evidence-Based Review


Cancer remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Despite significant advancements in treatment modalities, the potential of nutrition in both cancer prevention and management is increasingly being recognised. #

This review synthesises current evidence on the role of nutrition in cancer prevention and management, highlighting dietary patterns, specific nutrients, and food components that have shown promise in reducing cancer risk and supporting treatment outcomes.

The Role of Nutrition in Cancer


The relationship between diet and cancer has been a focal point of research for several decades. Epidemiological studies have consistently suggested that dietary habits significantly influence cancer risk. This review aims to provide an evidence-based overview of how nutrition can contribute to the prevention and management of cancer.

Dietary Patterns and Cancer Prevention

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil, has been extensively studied for its health benefits. Several cohort studies and meta-analyses have demonstrated its protective effect against various cancers, particularly colourectal, breast, and prostate cancers. The anti-carcinogenic properties of the Mediterranean diet are attributed to its high content of antioxidants, dietary fibre, and healthy fats.

Plant-Based Diets

Vegetarian and vegan diets, which exclude or limit animal products, have also been associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Studies suggest that individuals adhering to plant-based diets have a lower incidence of cancers, particularly gastrointestinal cancers. The high intake of fibre, vitamins, and phytochemicals, along with the low consumption of saturated fats, is thought to confer these protective effects.

Specific Nutrients and Food Components


Antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids, neutralise free radicals, thereby preventing cellular damage that can lead to cancer. A diet rich in antioxidants, predominantly found in fruits and vegetables, has been associated with a lower risk of cancers such as lung, stomach, and oesophageal cancers.

The Role of Nutrition in Cancer


Dietary fibre, particularly from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, has been shown to reduce the risk of colourectal cancer. Fibre aids in the rapid transit of food through the digestive tract, reducing the contact time between potential carcinogens and the intestinal lining. Additionally, fibre fermentation by gut microbiota produces short-chain fatty acids, which have protective effects against cancer.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fatty fish and flaxseeds, exhibit anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to a reduced risk of breast, prostate, and colourectal cancers. These fatty acids are believed to inhibit cancer cell proliferation and induce apoptosis.

Phytochemicals and Bioactive Compounds


Polyphenols, abundant in tea, coffee, red wine, fruits, and vegetables, have demonstrated anti-carcinogenic properties through various mechanisms, including antioxidant activity, inhibition of cell proliferation, and induction of cancer cell apoptosis. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea and resveratrol in red wine are amongst the most studied polyphenols.


Sulforaphane, found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, has shown potential in cancer prevention. It induces phase II detoxification enzymes, promotes apoptosis, and inhibits angiogenesis in cancer cells.

Nutrition in Cancer Management

Slim down a book by A.C.S

Caloric Restriction and Fasting

Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting have gained attention for their potential to enhance cancer treatment outcomes. Preclinical studies suggest that these dietary interventions can sensitise cancer cells to chemotherapy and reduce treatment side effects. Clinical trials are underway to explore their efficacy in human cancer patients.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet, characterised by high-fat and low-carbohydrate intake, has been proposed as an adjunct to traditional cancer therapies. This diet may exploit the metabolic differences between cancer cells and normal cells, potentially slowing tumour growth. However, more clinical evidence is needed to substantiate these claims.


Emerging evidence underscores the significant role of nutrition in cancer prevention and management. While no single dietary component can guarantee cancer prevention, a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, combined with a reduction in processed and red meats, appears to offer protective benefits. Further research is necessary to clarify the mechanisms by which dietary patterns and specific nutrients influence cancer development and progression.


1.      Sofi, F., et al. “Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis.” BMJ 2008.

2.      Schwingshackl, L., et al. “Adherence to Mediterranean diet and risk of cancer: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrients 2017.

3.      Tantamango-Bartley, Y., et al. “Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2013.

4.      Dinu, M., et al. “Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: a systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2017.

5.      Steinmetz, K. A., & Potter, J. D. “Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: a review.” J Am Diet Assoc 1996.

References Part 2

6.      Key, T. J., et al. “Diet, nutrition and the prevention of cancer.” Public Health Nutr 2004.

7.      Aune, D., et al. “Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.” BMJ 2011.

8.      Park, Y., et al. “Dietary fibre intake and risk of colorectal cancer: a pooled analysis of prospective cohort studies.” JAMA 2005.

9.      Patterson, E., et al. “Health potential of polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2012.

10.     Gerber, M. “Omega-3 fatty acids and cancers: a systematic update review of epidemiological studies.” Br J Nutr 2012.

11.     Birt, D. F., et al. “Dietary agents in cancer prevention: flavonoids and isoflavonoids.” Pharmacal Ther 2001.

References Part 3

12.     Zhou, Y., et al. “Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the main polyphenol in green tea, as a natural antioxidant compound in cancer therapy.” Life Sci 2016.

13.     Clarke, J. D., et al. “Sulforaphane induces phase II detoxification enzymes through Nrf2-dependent and -independent pathways.” Carcinogenesis 2008.

14.     Higdon, J. V., et al. “Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis.” Pharmacol Res 2007.

15.     Lee, C., & Longo, V. D. “Fasting vs dietary restriction in cellular protection and cancer treatment: from model organisms to patients.” Oncogene 2011.

References Part 4

16.     de Groot, S., et al. “Effects of short-term fasting on cancer treatment.” J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2019.

17.     Klement, R. J., & Champ, C. E. “Calories, carbohydrates, and cancer therapy with radiation: exploiting the five R’s through dietary manipulation.” Cancer Metastasis Rev 2014.

18.     Weber, D. D., et al. “Ketogenic diet in the treatment of cancer – where do we stand?” Mol Metab 2020.

You may want to take a look at our blog on mindful eating. This blog will aid in weight management and help individuals to learn how to eat healthy and balanced when it comes to healthy living

As always for an external resource please checkout the NHS Cancer Pge.

By Aaron Christopher Slade.