The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has just released a report on female breast cancer survivors. [1] It is part of a larger project analysing global research on the way diet, nutrition, physical activity and weight affect cancer risk and survival.

WCRF says the latest report is the most rigorous, systematic, global analysis of the scientific research currently available on breast cancer survivors, and how certain lifestyle factors affect a person’s chances of surviving after developing the disease.

The report concluded that, because of limitations in either the design or execution of much existing research, the evidence is not strong enough to make specific recommendations for breast cancer survivors. However, it says there are indications of links between better survival after breast cancer and:

  • a healthy body weight before and after diagnosis
  • being physically active before and after diagnosis
  • eating foods containing fibre before and after diagnosis
  • eating foods containing soy after diagnosis
  • a lower intake of total fat and, in particular, saturated fat.

Because other factors may explain these links, further research is needed to investigate the reason for the associations.

Although the report did not refer to plant or animal products specifically, the recommendations appear to strongly favour a plant-based diet.

The WCRF report’s executive summary noted (p. 3):

. . . the incidence of breast cancer is rising in the developing world because of increased life expectancy, urbanisation, and the adoption of western lifestyles.

It referred to breast cancer risk factors specified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) [2], who have stated:

The differences in breast cancer incidence between developed and developing countries can partly be explained by dietary effects combined with later first childbirth, lower parity, and shorter breastfeeding.

Consumption of plant-based foods is referred to in WCRF’s general recommendations on cancer: [3]

  1. Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.
  2. Be physically active as part of everyday life.
  3. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks.
  4. Eat mostly foods of plant origin.
  5. Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
  6. Limit alcoholic drinks.
  7. Limit consumption of salt and avoid mouldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes).
  8. Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone, without supplements.
  9. Mothers to breastfeed; children to be breastfed.
  10. Cancer survivors to follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.


It seems clear that if the chances of avoiding and/or surviving breast cancer and various other cancers are to be improved, the relatively simple measure of adopting an appropriate diet is a critically important factor.

Blog Author: Paul Mahony (Also on Twitter, Scribd and Slideshare)


[1] World Cancer Research Fund, “Diet, nutrition, physical activity and Breast Cancer Survivors- 2014“, http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/Breast-Cancer-Survivors-2014-Report.pdf

[2] World Health Organization, “Breast cancer: prevention and control”, http://www.who.int/cancer/detection/breastcancer/en/index2.html

[3] World Cancer Research Fund – Recommendations, http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/cancer_prevention_recommendations/index.php

Image: © Radub85 | Dreamstime.comFruits And Vegetables Diet Word Photo