Researchers making presentations at the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer in Lyon, France, last week linked thousands of cases of cancer in the western world to poor diet and a lack of exercise.
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), a study looking at the diets of more than 500,000 people from nine European countries, has confirmed that eating fruit and vegetables can ward off colon and rectal cancer.
However, it casts doubts on the protective effects of fruit and vegetables on other cancers. The study found no evidence to suggest they protect from cancers of the stomach and lungs. Their study confirms that the consumption of fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of colorectal cancer and cancers of the mouth, pharynx and oesophagus.
The preliminary results have also raised questions about the long-held belief that eating red meat can increase the risk of cancer. The researchers found a 10 to 15% increase for heavy consumption of meat, but the risk was not as high as previously thought. The study will now examine the effects of different meats and determine why processed meat may be a greater risk than fresh meat.
"We continue to recommend that people have a diet which has a little bit of everything but a lot fruit and vegetables and not necessarily a vegetarian diet, that they eat dairy products and remain physically active, don't smoke and drink only in moderation," the researcher advised.
The study, which is ongoing, is not due to finish until at least 2003.
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