Europe Searches for an Anti-Cancer Diet

Key Points

  • Eating lots of processed meat, especially red meat, increases the risk of bowel cancer.
  • BUT eating more foods high in fiber (like wholegrains) reduces the risk of bowel cancer.
  • Obesity is the biggest cause of cancer after smoking.
  • Not smoking is still the best thing you can do to reduce the risk of cancer.

For almost 30 years, Europe has been looking into the link between cancer and diet. They created the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study.   Funded by Cancer Research UK and other funders including the European Union, research was collected and added to the EPIC database.  Managing this was helped by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC).  The scale was considerable, involving more than half a million people, enrolled at 23 research centers across 10 countries in Europe.

What did they find?

Primarily, their findings seemed to indicate less of a recommendation about what to eat, than it did a recommendation of what NOT to eat.  

While they were hoping to look into 'super foods' and other dietary items to improve outcomes, they found that eating large quantities of good foods didn't necessarily have the desired outcome.  But they did notice that too much food in general led to a poorer outcome.  

As with a lot of these studies, it's hard to say how accurate the information is, when gathering large amounts of data, it's hard to control for anything specific the way researchers who study the effects of diet in a small, tightly-controlled trial.  Susan Komen did a very large, and expensive study a few years ago, and after spending millions of dollars, they determined that exercise was good - we all know that.  I've always found the more specific research, rather than large batches of data based on the general population, to be more helpful and informative.

You can read more about the EPIC Study on the WHO site.


  • Diet