A Healthy Lifestyle Reduces the Risk of Developing Colorectal or Breast Cancer

New study confirms validity of World Cancer Research Fund cancer prevention recommendations


The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) recently participated in a study undertaken to investigate whether following cancer prevention recommendations for a healthy lifestyle really influences a person’s risk of developing prostate, breast or colorectal cancer, the three most common malignant tumours in Spain.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, was carried out within the framework of the MCC-Spain case-control study and combined the work of researchers from several Spanish centres. The researchers analysed data collected between 2007 and 2012 from 1,718 cases of colorectal cancer, 1,343 cases of breast cancer, and 864 cases of prostate cancer, which was compared to that of 3,431 healthy controls.  

The study investigated associations between the participants’ health and the six recommendations of the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) relating to healthy weight, physical activity, avoiding foods and drinks that promote weight gain, plant foods, animal foods and alcoholic drinks.   

The first author of the study is Dora Romaguera, a researcher at ISGlobal, the Health Research Institute of the Balearic Islands, and CIBERobn. Romaguera explains that the findings  “indicate that a increment of one point in a person’s score relating to the WCRF/AICR recommendations is associated with a 25% lower risk of colorectal cancer and a 15% lower risk of breast cancer”. In postmenopausal women, the reduction in the risk of breast cancer rose to 22%. No clear associations with prostate cancer were observed.

Manolis Kogevinas—head of ISGlobal’s Cancer Programme, CIBERESP researcher, and coordinator of the MCC-Spain study—emphasizes that these findings “provide further evidence that a large proportion of cases of common cancers could be avoided through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle".

The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that one in every three cases of common cancers could be avoided through a healthy diet, healthy weight, and regular physical activity.


Dora Romaguera, Esther Gracia-Lavedan, Amaia Molinuevo, Jordi de Batlle, Michelle Mendez, Victor Moreno, Carmen Vidal, Adela Castelló, Beatriz Pérez-Gómez, Vicente Martín, Antonio J Molina, Verónica Dávila-Batista, Trinidad Dierssen-Sotos, Inés Gómez-Acebo, Javier Llorca, Marcela Guevara, Jesús Castilla, Carmen Urtiaga, Cristóbal Llorens-Ivorra, Guillermo Fernández-Tardón, Adonina Tardón, José Andrés Lorca, Rafael Marcos-Gragera, José María Huerta, Rocío Olmedo-Requena, José Juan Jimenez-Moleon, Jone Altzibar, Silvia de Sanjosé, Marina Pollán, Núria Aragonés, Gemma Castaño-Vinyals, Manolis Kogevinas, Pilar Amiano. Adherence to nutrition-based cancer prevention guidelines and breast, prostate and colorectal cancer risk in the MCC-Spain case-control study. International Journal of Cancer. doi: 10.1002/ijc.30722