Adhering to a healthy diet, drinking less alcohol, and exercising may reduce the risk of developing cancer, researchers have found.
The review, published in the journal Cancer Research, drew data from the NutriNet-Sante study, launched in 2009 to investigate associations between nutrition and health in a French cohort.
This study included a large sample of 41,543 participants aged 40 or older, who had never been diagnosed with cancer prior to inclusion in the study.
"The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) estimated that in developed countries, around 35 per cent of breast cancers and 45 per cent of colorectal cancers could be avoided by adherence to nutritional recommendations," said Bernard Srour from Paris 13 University in France.
The WCRF/AICR recommends plenty of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and beans with limited fast food, red and processed meat, alcohol, and sugary drinks.
The study showed that adherence to nutritional recommendations by the WCRF/AICR, developed specifically with cancer prevention in mind, was associated with a 12 per cent decrease in overall cancer risk; a 14 per cent decrease in breast cancer risk, and a 12 per cent decrease in prostate cancer risk.
Adherence to the other diets was also associated with reduced cancer risk, but the WCRF/AICR index demonstrated greater statistical strength and a better predictive performance, researchers said.
The researchers concluded that the "synergistic contribution" of a healthy diet was more significant than any single dietary recommendation.
For example, antioxidants from fruits and vegetables may contribute to counteract some of the oxidative damage to the DNA caused by red meat and processed meat, and exercise could lower blood pressure, partly counteracting the effects of high-sodium foods.
"This emphasises the role of an overall healthy lifestyle - nutrition and physical activity and alcohol avoidance - in cancer prevention," Srour said.
"It is, therefore, important to keep in mind that every lifestyle factor counts and it is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle," he said.